WASHINGTON — Richard Arvin Overton, America's oldest World War II veteran and the third-oldest man in the world, died Thursday afternoon from pneumonia. He was 112 years old.
Overton was born before Henry Ford introduced the Model T, before the Titanic embarked on her doomed maiden voyage and before New Yorkers watched the first ball drop in Times Square.
He was born on May 11, 1906, in Bastrop County, Texas, about an hour outside of Austin. Overton was the grandson of a slave and grew up in one of America's darkest periods. He witnessed the repeal of Jim Crow laws, the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the election of the first black president of the United States.
He began his military career with the Army on Sept. 3, 1940, at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
In December 1941, he was sent to Hawaii immediately after the devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on Pearl Harbor. Like the rest of the nation, Overton was thrust into World War II.
He served in the Pacific Theater with the Army's segregated 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion from 1942 to 1945. He held a series of jobs in the military, including burial detail, base security and driver for an officer.