Richard Arvin Overton, the oldest man in the United States, died yesterday at the age of 112. Overton, a veteran of the Second World War, remained active for most of his years, showing the constitution of a man half his age. The East Austin, Texas, resident died two days after Christmas, following a short battle with pneumonia.
Overton was an unapologetic cigar smoker, and puffed away heartily and happily for most of his adult life. He smoked as many as a dozen cigars a day, and he began smoking cigars back in 1924—94 years ago—when he was 18 years old. His favorite cigar was an inexpensive, machine-made brand called a Tampa Sweet.
"I smoke 12 a day," he told Cigar Aficionado in 2015, when he was 109 years old. “But I don't inhale them. It's the good taste. Let your lungs stay clean."
When Cigar Aficionado interviewed Overton in 2015, he shared some of his tips for a long life. "You've got to stir around a lot. Your muscles get dry, your blood gets slow. You need to get up and move around," he said. "If you keep your muscles sluggish, it slows your blood down."
Overton was born on May 11, 1906 in the modest farming community of St. Mary’s Colony, Texas. Back then many cars were propelled by steam power, the U.S. had only 45 states and man had only flown for three years. World War II saw Overton drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served from 1942 through 1945, fighting for the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion. He saw action in the South Pacific, including the ferocious battlefield of Iwo Jima. "I lost a lot of my friends," he said back in 2015.
After the war, Overton was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant. He returned to his job at a furniture store and built his own home in East Austin. He married twice, outlived both of his wives and never had children.
Overton was a man of habit, and in his later years he could be found on his front porch in Austin, smoking his cigars and sometimes sipping a bit of whisky. “It’s like medicine,” he said of the liquor. Back in 2015, on his 109th birthday, Overton rose at 3 am, brewed a pot of coffee and went out to his front porch. He lit the first of his cigars, and began sipping and puffing. Just a typical day for Overton.
“Today we mourn the loss of this legendary American hero,” wrote Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Twitter Thursday evening. “May he Rest In Peace.”
Overton is survived by his cousin, Volma Overton Jr.