Richard Overton to turn 111 with cigars, whiskey and new street name


America’s oldest living World War II veteran turns 111 on Thursday in Austin.

“It’s something different. I like it,” Overton says of his fame.

Party guests will be able to check out the new street signs at his birthday celebration.

On most afternoons you can find Richard Overton perched on his East Austin home’s elevated porch, overlooking Hamilton Avenue, listening to R&B and smoking his beloved cigars.

Passers-by wave when they spot him outside the home he’s lived in for the past 72 years. Overton, America’s oldest living World War II veteran, enjoys being the neighborhood king from the porch chair that’s become his throne.

On Thursday, Overton will celebrate his 111th birthday with a neighborhood block party that starts at 3 p.m. Don’t forget to bring the whiskey. He likes adding a bit to his coffee in the mornings. Don’t worry, he said, “I like any kind you’ll bring me.”

The Austin City Council in April passed a resolution to give Hamilton Avenue the honorary street name Richard Overton Avenue, and party guests can check out the new street signs at the celebration. The Blackshear Neighborhood Association and Austin’s Commission on Veterans Affairs initiated the honorary naming process.

“It’s also important to the community that treasures him,” District 1 Council Member Ora Houston said.

Overton, who was born in Bastrop County in 1906, served in the Pacific Theater with the Army’s all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion from 1942 to 1945.

Related: Life’s pretty great at 108

Now Overton soaks up the celebrity status he’s earned in his twilight years. In 2013, he met President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House, he’s been featured in “Cigar Aficionado: The Good Life Magazine for Men” alongside Vince Vaughn, and in Overton’s living room there’s a framed camouflage San Antonio Spurs jersey made for him with the number “110” in honor of his last birthday.

“It’s all right,” he said of his fame. “It’s something different. I like it.”

Biden recently stopped to see him at his house. “It was a nice visit. I just talk to him like I do to you,” Overton said. “He’s human.”

In December, Overton’s family launched a GoFundMe page to hire around-the-clock home health care. Donations poured in from across the country, but have now stalled at about $169,240 of its $200,000 goal.

“It’s people who donate who help keep him on this porch,” said Volton Overton Jr, son of a 1960s Austin civil rights leader and Overton’s cousin. Since hiring the home health care, his family has noticed that Overton has gained weight and seems sharper. They hope additional donations will help fund continuous care.

With a lit cigar in his left hand, Overton spontaneously hums while the smoke swirls around him. By 3 p.m. on a recent afternoon, he already had smoked about six or seven cigars.

“But I don’t inhale,” he said. “I still feel the same smoking as I did when I was 18. If anything, I’m a stronger smoker now. Oh, yeah. I blow out.”

Overton has learned to savor the little things in life he relishes, like catfish, gravy, corn, hamburgers and macaroni and cheese.

“You’ve gotta learn to treat yourself, you know?”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

State panel suspends Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis over threat
State panel suspends Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis over threat

The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct has suspended Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis from judicial duties with pay, said county spokeswoman Connie Odom. The suspension was in connection to an official oppression charge filed against Gattis, she said. It will not keep him from doing his job because he performs administrative duties in the county...
Austin school district launches clear bag policy at athletic events
Austin school district launches clear bag policy at athletic events

The Austin school district announced Friday a clear bag policy at athletic events that officials say is meant to enhance safety and security for athletes and spectators. The policy, set to begin Aug. 30, will be enforced at Burger Stadium, Delco Center, House Park, Nelson Field and Noack Sports Complex. It could be expanded in the future to include...
8 officers shoot, kill man who ran at them with gun, police say
8 officers shoot, kill man who ran at them with gun, police say

The sound of gunfire reverberated on Sixth Street on a busy back-to-school weekend and sent crowds scrambling as eight Austin officers shot and killed a 21-year-old man who was carrying a gun and ran toward them early Friday, police officials said. Family members said the victim was Aquantis Givens, a rapper from Baton Rouge, La., who was performing...
Appeals court tosses 3 UT professors’ lawsuit challenging campus carry
Appeals court tosses 3 UT professors’ lawsuit challenging campus carry

A federal appeals court has rejected three University of Texas professors’ claims that the state’s campus carry law and its implementation by the university violate their constitutional rights. Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter argued that their First Amendment right to academic freedom has been violated because free speech...
City sued in Texas Supreme Court regarding CodeNext ballot language

CodeNext might be dead, but litigation regarding the controversial land-use rewrite is alive and well. On Friday, a petitioner sued the city of Austin in the Texas Supreme Court concerning ballot language tied to the now-abandoned comprehensive rewrite of the city’s land-use rules. The suit marked the second time this week that a petitioner represented...
More Stories