Lawrence Brooks was drafted into the US Army at 31 and spent World War II in the predominantly African American 91st Engineer Battalion, which was stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines, according to the museum. After the war, he worked as a forklift operator for 40 years.
Brooks’ wife, Leona, died in November 2008, and he is survived by five children, 13 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren, the museum said in a statement.
“He was a beloved friend, a man of great faith, and had a gentle spirit that inspired those around him,” Stephen J. Watson, museum president and CEO said.
“His kindness, smile and sense of humor connected him to generations of people who loved and admired him.”
Prominent figures responded to the news of his death, including President Joe Biden.
“I am sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Lawrence Brooks, America’s oldest World War II veteran and a proud Louisianan. I am thankful I had the chance to meet him and learn from his service. Please join me and @FirstLadyofLA in praying for his family during this time,” the governor tweeted.
The museum said that Brooks’ passing underscores the urgency and importance of their mission to preserve stories of the men and women who served in World War II for future generations. Of the 16 million US veterans who fought in World War II, approximately 240,000 remain alive, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs.