Nation’s oldest veteran, 111, traces family roots through West Tennessee

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- At 111, Mr. Richard Overton is doing something he's never done before — visiting the state of Tennessee.

On Friday, Mr. Overton, his cousin Roscoe Overton and Filmaker Genene D. Walker started the second day of their Tennessee tour by appearing on WREG's Live at 9 with a camera crew in tow.

"Mr. Overton is a national treasure. I've had the privilege of talking with him for the past two years at his home in Austin. He has a narrative that's compelling, and it's not just his longevity narrative but the lessons that he learned as a young man from his parents of service, of humanity, of sacrifice," Walker told WREG.

Born May 11, 1906, Mr. Overton enlisted in the Army in 1940 and served in the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion and as an expert marksman during the South Pacific Theater.

In 1945, he left the military with the rank of Corporal and with various commendations to his name.

Now decades later, he's the country's oldest World War II veteran and the second oldest living American by just 11 days.

But that doesn't mean he feels that way.

Mr. Overton said even at the age of 111 he doesn't have any aches or pains.

He credits his longevity to 12 cigars a day and shots of whiskey, but even more so on his outlook on life.

"Live like you want to live. Be your own self," he told Marybeth Conley and Alex Coleman Friday.

It's good advice from a man who continues to experience new things like being the Honorary Duckmaster at the Peabody Hotel and being honored at Overton Park.

And if you think his last name is a coincidence, it's not.

Mr. Overton is a direct descendant of Judge John Overton, the founder of Memphis, who took up residence at Travellers Rest in Nashville.

This trip is all about tracing their family's roots and Walker will be there to document every minute of it.

Walker's documentary is expected to be released this fall.