December 29, 2008 in Nation/World

Oldest man in U.S. dies at 112

Associated Press
 
File Associated Press photo

George Francis is shown a copy of the Nov. 5 newspaper with President-elect Barack Obama on the front page.
(Full-size photo)

SAN FRANCISCO – George Francis, the nation’s oldest man, who lived through both world wars, man’s first walk on the moon and the election of the first black president, has died. He was 112.

Francis died Saturday of congestive heart failure at a nursing home in Sacramento, Calif., his son, Anthony Francis, 81, said Sunday.

“He lived four years in the 19th century, 100 years in the 20th century, and 8 years in the 21st century. We call him the man of three centuries,” Anthony Francis said.

UCLA gerontologist Dr. Stephen Coles, who maintains a list of the world’s oldest people, said Francis lived 112 years and 204 days.

With Francis’ death, Walter Breuning, of Montana, who is 112 years, 98 days old, becomes the country’s oldest living man. At 114, Gertrude Baines, of Los Angeles, is the nation’s oldest living person. The world’s oldest person is Maria de Jesus, of Portugal, who is 115 years, 109 days old, and the oldest man is Tomoji Tanabe, of Japan, who is 113 years, 101 days, Coles said.

Francis, who at his prime barely weighed more than 100 pounds, was born June 6, 1896, in New Orleans. As an African-American in the South, he felt the sting of the Jim Crow-era segregation laws in his early life.

His son said Francis tried to enlist in the U.S. Army during World War I but was turned down because of his stature.

“We always attributed his longevity to his mental and physical toughness,” Anthony Francis said.

George Francis quit school after the sixth grade, became an amateur boxer as a young man and later worked as a chauffeur, an auto mechanic and a barber.

He and his wife, Josephine Johnson Francis, had a son and three daughters. Josephine Francis died of cancer in 1964.

Even in his waning days, Francis never lost his passion for politics, his family said. He voted for Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and for Barack Obama in 2008.

In an interview with the Associated Press after Obama’s victory, Francis, who used a wheelchair, said he felt like jumping up and down.

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