Lawrence Brooks, oldest U.S. veteran of WWII, dead at 112

The Black Army vet passed away at his home in New Orleans on Tuesday

The oldest living World War II veteran in America has died at the age of 112. 

Lawrence Brooks passed away at his home in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans on Tuesday, reports. His death was confirmed by his daughter and caregiver, Vanessa Brooks. His ailing health kept him in and out of local veteran hospitals in recent months, she said. Funeral arrangements are reportedly pending.

Lawrence Brooks
Lawrence Brooks (Credit: YouTube screenshot)

“When asked about the secret of living a long life, he would say: ‘Serve God and be nice to people,'” Rev. Morris Thompson Jr., the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, said about Brooks in an email to church members. “On this day, take a moment to honor his faithful service to our country and to the church by being kind to everyone you meet.”

The Black Army veteran was born in 1909 in Norwood, Louisiana, and raised by his sharecropper parents just outside of Stephenson, Mississippi. Brooks, one of 15 children, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1940. The following year, after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, he was assigned to the mostly Black 91st Engineer General Service Regiment stationed in Australia, per the report. The unit didn’t see combat but instead built bridges, roads, and airstrips for planes.

Brooks was caretaker to three white officers, and also served as a driver and cook for two lieutenants and a captain.

“My officers were good to me,” said Brooks in an interview with the National World War II Museum, noting that he did not experience any racial incidents with them, Military Times reports. “I never had any problems.”

“We had our tents, and the whites had their tents,” he added. “They were next to each other, like next door.”

According to The Associated Press, Brooks was ”known for his good-natured sense of humor, positivity and kindness,” the outlet writes.

Brooks’ death was announced by the National WWII Museum, which often hosted an annual birthday party for him. He celebrated his 112th birthday in September with a pandemic safe drive-by party at his home. 

“I don’t have no hard feelings toward nobody,” Brooks said during a 2014 oral history interview with the museum. “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.”

President Joe Biden called Brooks last year to wish him a happy Veterans Day. On Wednesday, he posted a video of the moment to Twitter.

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

In the video, Biden acknowledged the “African American men who fought — and some who died — in World War II and never got credit.”

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