Richard Overton, the second World War II veteran of the United States, who was believed to be the oldest living American man, died Thursday in Texas, a family member said. He was 112 years old.
The veteran of the army had been hospitalized for pneumonia, but was released on Christmas Eve, said Shirley Overton, whose husband was Richard's cousin and longtime janitor.
He died Thursday night at a rehab facility in Austin, Texas, she said.
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Richard Overton was in his thirties when he volunteered for the army and was in Pearl Harbor immediately after the 1941 Japanese attack. He once said a secret of his long life was smoking cigars and drinking whiskey, which he often found on the porch of his Austin home. [1 9659002] His recent birthdays drew national attention and strangers would drop by to meet him. Until well into his 100s, he drove widows in his neighborhood to the church.
"With his quick wit and friendly spirit, he touched the lives of so many people, and I am very honored to have known him." Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Thursday and called Overton "an American icon and Texan legend."
"Richard Overton has made us proud to be Texans and proud to be Americans," added the governor. "We can never repay Richard Overton for his service to our nation and for his lasting influence on the Lone Star State."
Overton was born in 1906 near Austin and served in the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion.
In 2013, former President Barack Obama honored Overton at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
"He was there in Pearl Harbor when the battleships are still smoldering," Obama said of Overton. "He was there in Okinawa, where he was in Iwo Jima, where he said," I came out only by the grace of God.