Oldest American World War II Veteran Visits Tennessee

A man believed to be the nation’s oldest World War II veteran arrived in Memphis on Thursday from his native Texas to great fanfare.

Richard Overton, age 111, was greeted at Memphis International Airport with a water cannon salute from the Memphis Fire Department and well-wishers who wanted to shake his hand. He was then escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders to the Peabody Hotel, reports WREG News Channel 3.

Overton was scheduled to serve as honorary duckmaster at the hotel Friday before being the guest of honor at a special ceremony at Overton Park.

His visit is sponsored by Forever Young Senior Veterans and The Peabody, according to The Commercial Appeal. Overton, who has attracted the attention of local documentary filmmaker Genene Walker, had been expressing a desire to visit Tennessee.

Overton’s grandfather was born a slave at John Overton’s Nashville-area plantation, Travellers Rest. Overton was one of the founders of Memphis. Richard Overton’s family took his name after leaving the plantation.

Overton is planning to attend a family reunion in Nashville this weekend.

Overton enlisted in the Army in 1940 at age 34. He served in a segregated unit in the Pacific theater for five years, earning an expert rifle marksmanship badge and other honors.

When asked by the media gathered at the airport about his secret to longevity, Overton said: “Keep a-going.”

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