The Oldest World War II Vet Dies In New Orleans 1909- 2022
Private 1st Class, Lawrence Brooks, was a proud member of the United States Army 91st Engineer Battalion (predominantly African American) during World War II. His daughter and caregiver, Vanessa Brooks, confirmed that he died this morning (Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022) at the age of 112. He was the oldest World War II veteran in the country. Born in 1909 north of Baton Rouge in Norwood, Louisiana. During the Great Depression, Mr. Brooks's family moved to Stephenson, Mississippi, for work.was drafted into the Army at the age of 31
Prior to his passing, his daughter Vanessa reported to the Military Times that Mr. Brooks's health had been in decline. Over the past few months, he spent a lot of time in and out of the local New Orleans VA hospital. She said he was always very alert and spent most of his time cheering on his beloved New Orleans Saints. In spite of his age, he was extremely witty, and with an amazingly sharp memory.
As shared in his Memoriam today, Brooks was deeply proud of serving in the military and never allowed the hate from the Jim Crow era to change his heart. Speaking of life as a Black man in America he said “I had some good times, and I had some bad times,” The Violence of war was never easy. Brooks shared, “My mother and father always raised me to love people and I don’t care what kind of people they are.” The U.S. military and most of America were segregated by race during World War II. Thinking of those days the U.S. veteran remembered “I was treated so much better in Australia than I was by my own white people. I wondered about that.”
This great American hero was loved by everyone who knew him. He never let racism take his happiness. Mr. Brooks was also a great source for information and could tell some amazing stories about his time at war.
People at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans loved celebrating Mr. Brooks's birthdays and it became an annual tradition that began in 2014. Even though they had to wear masks and social distance, the museum, friends and family still gave him a birthday party on 111th and 112th birthdays. With word of his passing they released a statement regarding their beloved friend saying in part:
"The Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers at The National WWII Museum will forever cherish the memories we shared with Lawrence Brooks," said Stephen J. Watson, Museum President & CEO. "He was a beloved friend, a man of great faith and had a gentle spirit that inspired those around him.
As the nation's oldest known living veteran, he proudly served our country during World War II, and returned home to serve his community and church. His kindness, smile and sense of humor connected him to generations of people who loved and admired him. We send our sincerest condolences to his daughter Vanessa and the entire Brooks family."released a statement saying, in part, it was “deeply saddened by the loss.”
Private 1st Class Lawrence Brooks was succeeded in death by his wife, Leona, in November 2008. He is survived by 5 children, 13 grandchildren, and 32 great-grandchildren. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends and are truly grateful for his service to this great nation. May he rest in everlasting peace.