The passing away has been announced of Lawrence Brooks, the oldest known WWII veteran in the United States, at age 112. Brooks died peacefully at his home in New Orleans on 5 January 2022. His daughter, Vanessa brooks, said that he had been back and forth to the New Orleans VA Hospital in recent months. President Joe Biden referred to Brooks as “truly the best of America’.
Lawrence Brooks was at one point, the oldest living man in the United States.
He served from 1941 to 1945 in the Pacific with the Army’s predominantly African-American 91st Engineering Battalion as a support worker to its officers.
After his military service, Brooks worked as a forklift operator in New Orleans until his retirement, and he had five children. His wife, Leona, died shortly after Hurricane Katrina.
Brooks said he had good memories of his Army days and bad ones, such as being “treated so much better in Australia” than by white people in America. Brooks was born when William Howard Taft was president and lived through 20 different men holding that job.
While photographing Brooks in his Lower Ninth Ward home, I talked to him about Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As the waters were rising in his home, then 95-year-old Brooks and his daughter swam to his church a few blocks away. They climbed to the roof and were rescued by a helicopter a day later, says photographer Robert Clark.
At the end of our time together, I asked him what he thought was the most important lesson that he had learned in a century-plus: “Love, that really is the most important thing.”