Richard Overton, America's Oldest Veteran, Was Finally Laid To Rest In Texas — With A Box Of Cigars And A Bottle Of Whiskey


AUSTIN — A legend has been laid to rest.

Richard A. Overton, proud American and venerated soldier, was buried at the Texas State Cemetery on Saturday with full military honors.

At 112, Overton was the nation's oldest man and most senior veteran when he died Dec. 27. His age lent him celebrity, but it was Overton's humor, faith and profound kindness that made him extraordinary.

Hundreds turned out to honor the man, famous for his love of whiskey and cigars, before he was interred in the family plot. Some placed roses on his casket, a shiny number with bald eagles embedded in its corners, or swapped tales about how he taught them to play checkers.

Others lit up a few Tampa Sweet Perfectos, imbuing the cool afternoon air with the sweet smell of Overton's favorite brand. Apache helicopters buzzed overhead. Generations of military men stood at attention. Local children played among the headstones.

For most of his life, Overton lived about a half-mile from here. Now, for the first time in 70 years, his chair on the porch sits vacant. But his family says he'll never really, truly be gone.

"His final resting place is right here, right where he wanted to be," cousin Volma Overton Jr. told The Dallas Morning News after the funeral. "He's still home."

'A remarkable American'

A few years ago, Richard Overton was invited to spend his 109th birthday at the Governor's Mansion.

He showed up in a wheelchair, Gov. Greg Abbott remembered, and promptly challenged him to a race. Abbott, who has used a wheelchair since suffering an accident in 1984, quickly declined. How would it look if he lost to a man nearly twice his age?

"What is your secret to living so long?" Abbott asked Overton that day. "His answer was immediate and unequivocal: cigars and whiskey."

It was this "quick wit" and "joyous spirit" that endeared Overton to millions, Abbott told those who came to a service honoring the supercentenarian at Shoreline Church on Saturday morning.

"We celebrate Richard Overton not because of how long he lived. Instead we celebrate him because of how he lived his life," Abbott told the congregation, which numbered in the hundreds. "Today, we salute a remarkable American. A soldier. A survivor. A jokester. A joy.

"A man from Texas. A man of God."

Despite having no children of his own, Overton was remembered as the capital city's great-great-great-grandfather. He was born in 1906, when there were just 45 stars on the U.S. flag. The grandson of slaves, Overton grew up picking cotton in Bastrop County and served in a segregated unit during World War II.

General John M. Murray, commander of the Austin-based U.S. Army Futures Command, said Overton's 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion faced "searing" combat in the Pacific theater. But Overton also had to stare down "the toxic mix of racial discrimination and low expectations from the units they were a part of," added Murray.

"And although those units across the United States Army, and really across all the services, were set up to fail, Richard and his comrades overcame those challenges with valor, with expertise and with professionalism and with dedication."

When Overton returned to Texas, he built a house on Austin's east side that would be his home for the next 70 years. It was here, on that porch on Hamilton Avenue, that people from across the country and around the world could find Overton on a sunny day. They'd ask him for advice, sip some Maker's Mark, and, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said, try to soak up some of his infectious positivity.

"It was impossible to be around that man, who was gentle and respectful and kind, and not be gentle and respectful and kind in return," Adler said. "It impossible to be around Mr. Overton and not be the best that each of us can be."

Eight days before his 110th birthday, Overton became the nation's oldest veteran. The next year, Hamilton Avenue was renamed Richard Overton Avenue.

"And this lifelong Texan," Adler said, "will be buried today in the same cemetery as many of our state's most famous politicians, veterans and founding fathers."

Overton's family hopes to turn his home into a museum one day and asks everyone to continue to keep him in their thoughts.

"Let's keep Richard in our prayers," Volma Overton Jr. said. "God bless you, Richard. We love you."


©2019 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

SEE ALSO: Richard Overton, America's Oldest Man And WWII Veteran, Has Died At 112

WATCH NEXT: World War II Newsreels Are The Best

Screenshot via National Geographic/YouTube
(U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. True Thao)

Army researchers have devised a method to produce ceramic body armor, lightweight but strong, from a 3D printer. Except that 3D printers are meant to print out knickknacks, not flak jackets — which meant that engineers had to hack into the printer to get the job done.

Read More Show Less

There are #squadgoals, and then there are squad goals — and only one of them includes a potential future accompanied by autonomous murderbots.

Hot on the heels of the Marine Corps's head-to-toe overhaul of infantry rifle squads, a handful of grunts at the Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California recently conducted field testing alongside a handful of autonomous robots engineered by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Squad X Experimentation program.

Read More Show Less
Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher dodged the most serious charges the Navy threw at him during his court martial, but his final sentence could be far worse than what the jury originally handed down.

If the convening authority approves the jury's sentence of four months' confinement and a reduction in rank from E7 to E6, Gallagher will be busted down to the rank of E1, according to Navy officials.

Read More Show Less

An otherwise sleepy confirmation hearing for Defense Secretary nominee Mark Esper was jolted from its legislative stupor after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) grilled the former Raytheon lobbyist on ethical issues regarding his involvement with his former employer.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Air Force photo)

An Air Force major in Texas has been charged with the murder of his wife, whose remains were found more than four months after she went missing.

The body of 29-year-old Andreen McDonald was discovered Thursday in San Antonio following an exhaustive search that took 134 days, according to the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.

Read More Show Less