Monday, January 24, 2022

Watch Lawrence N. Brooks Tell His Story: Oldest WWII Vet Dies at 112 (Video)

Lawrence N. Brooks, the oldest World War II veteran in the U.S. — and believed to be the oldest man in the country, period — died Wednesday at the age of 112, reports the Associated Press.

Born on Sept. 12, 1909, Brooks was known for his good-natured sense of humor, positivity and kindness. When asked for his secret to a long life, he often said, “serving God and being nice to people.”

“I don’t have no hard feelings toward nobody,” he said during a 2014 oral history interview with the National WWII Museum (watch above). “I just want everything to be lovely, to come out right. I want people to have fun and enjoy themselves — be happy and not sad.”

Lawrence N. Brooks
Lawrence N. Brooks on the cover of National Geographic

On sunny days, Brooks was known for sitting on the front porch of the double shotgun house he shared with daughter Vanessa Brooks in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans. Neighbors would call out to the local celebrity, wave and bring him soda and snacks.

Brooks was passionate about the New Orleans Saints football team and never missed a game, his daughter said. His church, St. Luke’s Episcopal, was also close to his heart and he never missed a Sunday service until the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Originally from Norwood, Louisiana, near Baton Rouge, Brooks’ family moved to the Mississippi Delta when he was an infant. He was one of 15 children, and lived too far from the nearest school, so his parents taught him what they could at home.

Brooks was working at a sawmill when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1940. After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, he was assigned to the mostly Black 91st Engineer General Service Regiment stationed in Australia. Later in the war, troop losses virtually forced the military to begin placing more African American troops into combat positions.

The 91st, where Brooks served, was an Army unit that built bridges, roads and airstrips for planes. Brooks was assigned as a caretaker to three white officers. His job was to cook, drive and take care of their clothes.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday posted a video on Twitter of him calling Brooks to wish him a happy Veterans Day last year.

“He was truly the best of America,” Biden tweeted.

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