Remembering The Nation’s Oldest World War II Veteran


Matt Briscoe

Austin, Texas–When it comes to having had a full life, Richard Overton certainly had one. He was the life of any party and brightened any room that he was in. He drank whiskey and coffee, smoked cigars and lived every single one of his 112 years to the fullest.

Richard Overton, was the oldest known American World War II veteran. Overton, who turned 112 in May, was also the oldest man in the United States. He was hospitalized just before Christmas with pneumonia but was released from the hospital only days later. His family confirmed his death Thursday evening.

Mr. Overton was born in the rural central Texas in Bastrop County, Texas on May 11, 1906. On September 3, 1940, Mr. Overton went to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas where he would enlist in the United States Army. Upon completion of his basic training, Mr. Overton went on to become part of an all-black engineer aviation battalion.  He would serve in the South Pacific from 1940 until 1945, including stays in Hawaii, Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima. He left the U.S. Army in October 1945 as a technician fifth grade.

After leaving the Army, Mr. Overton would work on again and off again at various furniture stores in Austin. Eventually, Overton would find a career at the Texas Comptrollers Office.

Though an occasional local celebrity, Overton came to national media attention during the 2013 Memorial Day weekend when he told Fox News he would spend his Memorial Day “smoking cigars and drinking whiskey-stiffened coffee.” On the same day as his comments to Fox News, Overton would meet with the then Texas Governor Rick Perry.

On Veterans Day, 2013 Overton would also go to the White House where he met with President Barack Obama, and attend the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, where he was mentioned by President Obama.

On July 1, 2018, it became known that Overton became a victim of identity theft. A suspect of an unknown origin opened a fake banking account with Overton’s social security number, accessed his personal checking account, and used the money to gather savings bonds. A GoFundMe account raised over $400,000 for Mr. Overton, to help with his in home healthcare.

Mr. Overton was a regular member of his Austin area church and was a regular fixture there. He was a member of the greatest generation that is slowly fading away into the history books.

Shortly following the announcement of Mr. Overton, Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement saying that “with his quick wit and kind spirit, he touched the lives of so many.”

Texas State Senator Dawn Buckingham said on social media “We salute you for your service. You fought a brave fight and you will be missed.”

Funeral arrangements for Mr. Overton are pending.

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