By Sean Kimmons, Army News ServiceJanuary 10, 2019
FORT MEADE, Md. -- Richard Overton, a 112-year-old World War II veteran who lived to be the oldest American man, will be laid to rest Saturday at a historic cemetery in his hometown of Austin following days of tributes.
The grandson of slaves, Overton volunteered to join the Army in his 30s and served in the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion, an all-African American unit. He deployed to the Pacific Theater from 1942-45 with stops in Guam, Palau, and Iwo Jima.
Overton left the Army in 1945 at the rank of corporal. He went on to work in furniture sales and later in the state treasurer's office when future Texas Gov. Ann Richards headed the agency, according to a Stars and Stripes article.
He will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery, the final resting place for many notable Texans, including Richards.
Before his death on Dec. 27, Overton was believed to be the second oldest living man in the world at 112 years and 280 days old, according to data by the Gerontology Research Group.
On Wednesday, both U.S. senators from Texas introduced a Senate resolution to honor Overton.
In it, the resolution called Overton "an American hero that exemplified strength, sacrifice, and service to the United States of America."
In recent years, the supercentenarian was honored at several ceremonies and sporting events.
He visited the White House multiple times and, in 2013, then-President Barack Obama spoke of him during a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
"When [WWII] ended, Richard headed home to Texas, to a nation bitterly divided by race," Obama said in his speech. "And his service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect that he deserved at home. But this veteran held his head high."
Earlier that year, Obama said the veteran visited Washington, D.C., for the first time as part of an honor flight. During the trip, he paid his respects at the WWII Memorial. He also saw the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
"As Richard sat in a wheelchair beneath that great marble statue, he wept," Obama said. "The crowd that gathered around him wept, too -- to see one of the oldest living veterans of World War II bear witness to a day, to the progress of a nation he thought might never come."
On Jan. 3, 2015, Overton represented the Greatest Generation at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, where he presented the game ball before the annual high school football all-star game.
Then on March 23, 2017, the San Antonio Spurs brought a 110-year-old Overton down to the basketball court during one of its NBA games and gave him a personalized jersey with "110" on it.
In 2017, the City of Austin also officially renamed the street where Overton lived to "Richard Overton Avenue."
While in his 100s, Overton was still known to drive his own car and mow his lawn. In a 2013 interview with CNN, he credited God for living such a long life that included a few vices.
"I drink whiskey in my coffee. Sometimes I drink it straight," he said at the age of 107. "I smoke my cigars; blow the smoke out. I don't swallow it."