Sylvester Magee (1841-1971) The man who lived 130 years

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Sylvester Magee may have been the last living slave in America, and the oldest person who ever lived! Born a slave in North Carolina, he was the son of slaves named Ephraim and Jeanette, who worked on the J.J. Shanks plantation. At age 19, just before the Civil War, Sylvester was purchased from a slave market at Enterprise, Mississippi by Hugh Magee, whose surname Sylvester eventually adopted. Hugh Magee owned the Lone Star Plantation in Covington County, Mississippi. One source indicated that Magee was in time sold by Magee to Victory Steen, who operated a plantation near Florence, Mississippi. Sylvester eventually ran away from the Steen plantation and joined the ranks of the Union Army. Magee obtained his freedom after the fall of Vicksburg and served with Union troops. By the mid-1960s, due to his advanced age, Sylvester Magee became nationally famous. On his 124th birthday the citizens of Collins, Mississippi threw him a party and Magee was sent a letter of congratulations from President Lyndon Johnson. Governor Paul Johnson even declared the day « Sylvester Magee Day. » Magee took his first flight to New York for a television appearance and later flew to Philadelphia to appear on the Mike Douglas Show. He appeared in the March 1967 issue of Jet magazine, and was noted by President Richard Nixon as probably the oldest citizen of the United States, having been identified as the nation’s oldest living person by a life insurance company. When asked why he had lived so long, he simply stated that the Lord had been good to him. Reportedly, his last words were « Lord have mercy. » Sylvester Magee was likely the last living human being who possessed any firsthand memory of the trials of the Civil War or institutionalized slavery.

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