What to Know
- At 112, Richard Overton is believed to be the oldest man in America, as well as our nation's oldest veteran
- "I'm the oldest. That's the reason I'm so mean, I'm ugly," he jokes
- He lives at home, in the same house he bought back in the in the 1940s
In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt was president. The first forward pass was introduced to the game of football and Ford was still two years away from producing the first "Model T." Times have certainly changed since the early 1900s and there's only one man in America who can say he's witnessed it all.
Sitting on his front porch at his East Austin home, like he does every day, Richard Overton puffs on his cigar.
"You're smoking like a freight train now, " jokes Martin Wilford, as he reaches in to keep Overton's cigar lit with his lighter. "You OK right there, Pop?"
"Oh yes, " said Overton. "I'm still living."
Wilford and Overton spend a lot of time together on the front porch.
They first met at church in East Austin.
U.S. & World
Stories that affect your life across the U.S. and around the world.
"He used to run around with my uncles, " Wilford explained. "He outlived all my uncles, all my aunts, he's the only one. We became friends and now our relationship is like father and son."
At 112, Overton is believed to be the oldest man in America, as well as the nation's oldest veteran.
"And the ugliest, " joked Overton. "You are so right. I'm the oldest. That's the reason I'm so mean, I'm ugly."
His sense of humor is overshadowed by his worst habit. Those cigars.
"One day I decided, I'm going to smoke a cigar," he explained. "I was 18 years old and been smoking cigars ever since."
He smokes up to 18 a day.
"But I don't inhale them," Overton added. "Don't ever inhale the cigar; it'll tear your heart all to pieces.
"When you've lived this long, you know a thing or two about heartache.
"I had six sisters in the family and four brothers. They're all dead. Nobody's living but me," he said.
Overton never had kids, and his wife Wilma died more than 30 years ago.
"Everything was hard, but you go ahead and do it," he said. "It ain't going to hurt you."
He's a human time capsule.
"Some days I worked for 25 cents," he said. "You believe that? That's way back yonder, 25 cents!"
He served five years in the Army, with an all-black engineer battalion, in the south Pacific during WWII.
"Yes, I remember those days, " he said. "I had a gun that weighed nine pounds."
He's seen things that he never imagined could happen. Like the day Barack Obama became the U.S.' 44th president.
"I done everything," he said with a smile. "God didn't give you the energy. He gave it to me."
These days, though, he finds his energy waning.
"I don't have no kinda trouble," he said. "I'm just weak. I gotta try to get all my energy back."
He lives at home, in the same house he bought back in the in the 1940s on a street now named after him — Richard Overton Ave.
A team of nurses provides 24-hour medical care, but it's expensive. "About $15,000 a month, " Wilford said.
His friends have set up a GoFundMe account.
Time slowly takes its toll, but it seems time has always been on Richard Overton's side.
"You'll never meet another one," said Wilford. "I don't think I will either."