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George Francis, U.S.'s Oldest Man, Dies at 112

Armen Hareyan's picture

George Francis, believed to be the oldest man in the United States and whose life spanned both world wars, man's walk on the moon and the election of the nation's first black president, died of congestive heart failure Saturday at a Sacramento, Calif., nursing home. He was 112.

"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, Anthony Francis, 81, told the Associated Press.

George Francis, who even in his prime weighed little more than 100 pounds, was born in New Orleans on June 6, 1896. His son said that 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," his son said.

As an African-American in the South, the elder Francis grew up under the Jim Crow-era's segregation laws. But Francis maintained a passion for politics, his family said. He voted for Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and for Barack Obama in 2008.

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In an interview with the AP after Obama's victory, Francis, who used a wheelchair, said he felt like jumping up and down. "He is going to give black men a break in the world, and give them a better opportunity to live and make more money," he said. "For people who say voting doesn't matter, I think that's crazy."

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. His wife died of cancer in 1964.

With Francis' death, Walter Breuning of Montana, who is 112 years, 98 days old, becomes the country's oldest living man, according to UCLA gerontologist Dr. Stephen Coles, who maintains a list of the world's oldest people. Francis, he told AP, lived 112 years and 204 days.

Gertrude Baines of Los Angeles, now 114, 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. Japan's oldest person is Tomoji Tanabe at 113 years and 101 days, Coles said.

Francis is survived by 18 grandchildren, 33 great grandchildren and 16 great-great grandchildren, according to AP.