- Hannah Thornby American-Statesman Staff
Richard Overton isn’t just America’s oldest WWII veteran. He’s a fixture in Austin and has stories that date from Iwo Jima to the Capitol in the 1980s. He has been profiled by nearly every national newspaper including the Washington Post, USA Today and CNN. What's more, today is his 109th birthday. Read on for more about his very long life.
• Overton was born in 1906 in St. Mary’s in Bastrop County. It’s impossible to say for sure, because not all veterans are registered with the Department of Veteran affairs, but Overton is thought to be the world’s oldest World War II veteran. He served in the all-black 1887th Aviation Engineer Battalion from 1942 until 1945.
• The late Ann Richards was “his buddy.” He knew the Texas governor when she was the Treasurer because he used to handle mail and deliveries at the Capitol.
• Overton still lives in the east Austin house he built for $4,500 in 1945 when he got out of the military. He still smokes an alleged 12 cigarettes a day, as he says he has been doing since he was 18. He also still drives his green 1979 Ford truck, despite only having vision in one eye because of a botched cataract surgery.
• 1960s Austin Civil Rights leader Volma Overton was his cousin.
• Last December Austin Community College recognized Overton with an honorary associate degree.
• He once told the Statesman that his favorite moment in history was seeing a black president elected. In his first visit to the Washington D.C. in 2013, Overton was honored in front of a crowd of 4,000 people by President Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery.
• Overton celebrated his 109th birthday with burgers and cigars at Mighty Fine Burgers and Shakes last week in Austin. Mayor Steve Adler and the assistant chief of the Austin Police Department were among those in attendance at the east Austin party. Overton told KVUE that he hopes to see everyone back when he turns 110 next year.