George Francis, the nation’s oldest man who lived through two world wars, man’s first walk on the moon and got to vote for the country’s first black president, has died. He was 112.
Francis died Saturday of congestive heart failure at a nursing home in Sacramento, his son, Anthony Francis, 81, said Sunday.
“He lived four years in the 19th century, 100 years in the 20th century, and eight years in the 21st century. We call him the man of three centuries,” his son said.
Dr. Stephen Coles, a gerontologist who maintains a list of the world’s oldest people, said Francis lived to 112 years and 204 days.
With Francis’ passing, Walter Breuning of Montana, who’s 112 years and 98 days old, becomes the country’s oldest living man. Gertrude Baines of Los Angeles, 114, is the nation’s oldest living person. The world’s oldest person is Maria de Jesus of Portugal, who is 115 and 109 days old; and the oldest man is Tomoji Tanabe of Japan, who is 113 and 101 days, Coles said.
Francis, a wisp of a man who at his prime barely weighed more than 100 pounds, was born June 6, 1896, in New Orleans. As an African American growing up in the South, much of Francis’ early life was affected by the nation’s racially oppressive Jim Crow laws. “We always attributed his longevity to his mental and physical toughness,” his son said.
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 had a son and three daughters with his only wife, Josephine Johnson Francis, who died of cancer in 1964. She was 63.
Besides his four children, Francis is survived by 18 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and 16 great-great-grandchildren.
His family said that even in his waning days, Francis never lost his passion for politics. He voted for Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and cast his vote for Barack Obama this year.
In an interview after Obama’s victory, Francis, who used a wheelchair, said he felt like jumping up and down. “For people who say voting doesn’t matter, I think that’s crazy.”