The home of Richard Overton, who was believed to be America's oldest World War II veteran before he died last year, will now be harder to alter or tear down after Austin City Council members deemed it historic Thursday.
“He was a physical link to the history of our nation and our city, and now that he’s gone his house is our physical link to him," said Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, who oversees the district where Overton's house sits.
Overton died Dec. 27 at the age of 112 after being hospitalized for pneumonia. Born in Bastrop County in 1906, Overton joined the U.S. Army in 1940 as part of an all-black engineer aviation battalion, serving in Pearl Harbor and in the Pacific theater at Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
"Uncle Sam called me in, and I went there and I had to do it," he told KUT in 2015. Roughly 2,000 people attended a funeral service for Overton in January, before he was buried with full military honors at the Texas State Cemetery.
According to city documents, Overton bought the property on Hamilton Avenue in 1948 and built a one-story home for himself and his second wife. He worked for a furniture company and for the State Treasury Department before retiring in the 1970s.
Overton enjoyed smoking cigars on his front porch, and each year people gathered at his East Austin home to celebrate an age most of them would likely never reach themselves.
The City of Austin gave his street the honorary name of Richard Overton Avenue in 2017. Earlier this year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill to erect markers dedicated to him along a portion of Airport Boulevard.
President Barack Obama honored Overton in Washington, D.C., in 2013
“He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering,” Obama said during a Veterans Day celebration. “When the war ended, Richard headed home to Texas, to a nation bitterly divided by race, and his service on the battlefield was not always matched by the respect he deserved at home, but this veteran held his head high.”