If Jackson Pollock could prove it, he'd be world's oldest man


MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. -- Jackson Pollock wasn't in a good mood, and he wasn't about to see "no more damn people." It's not easy being 124 years old, going on 125. Especially if you can't prove it.

After finally agreeing to indulge the public, the man who may be the world's oldest living person said definitively, "I was born Christmas Day, 1866."

The certainty here is important. Mr. Pollock, a resident of Central State Hospital's nursing home in Milledgeville, can't document the date of his birth.

The government wasn't very good at keeping birth records on black people in rural Georgia back then. There is no family Bible to fall back on.

If he could prove his age, Mr. Pollock would be the oldest person in the world, hands down, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Instead, the 1992 edition has relegated him to a footnote, saying his Social Security payments list him as Jackson Pollard, born Dec. 15, 1869. That would make him 122, still old enough to be the oldest person on Earth.

But Guinness doesn't trust the Social Security records, either. The book lists the oldest living person "whose birth date can be reliably authenticated" as Jeanne Louise Calment, who is a mere 116 and lives in a nursing home in Arles, France.

The staff at Central State, where Mr. Pollock has lived since 1972, believe him to be 125.

On Christmas Day, "Today" show weatherman and centenarian watcher Willard Scott is scheduled to announce Mr. Pollock's birthday -- his 125th birthday -- on national television.

A religious man, Mr. Pollock likes the idea of sharing his birthday with Jesus. The coincidence generally brings a flood of publicity to his door this time of year.

"They don't come like they used to," he said through the smoke of his large-bowled pipe, implying that the novelty of his years may have worn off a bit.

He's also a much tougher interview than he was even a few years ago because his mind isn't what it used to be, say the nurses who take care of him.

"As long as we leave him alone, he's all right," said nurse Jackie May. "He gets around pretty good for his age. He's pretty strong when he gets mad."

He has been alive for more than half this country's history, the rise and fall of empires, and the creation of everything from the telephone to the compact disc player.

When asked about his earliest childhood memory, he responds, "That was so long ago."

He said Roosevelt was the best president in his lifetime. He then specified he was talking about Franklin. Next was Jimmy Carter -- "a nice man."

He remembers scattered details of his life:

* He was born in Middle Georgia to emancipated slaves.

* As a child he went to work as a mail carrier for the railroad to help support his 13 siblings.

* He liked Chicago best of all the places he's been -- "There are nice people there."

* He fought in the Spanish-American War.

* He never married but "had a good time."

His face lit up at the name Jackie Robinson. "He used to play for the Dodgers. I used to come in right behind him in hitting home runs," said Mr. Pollock, then burst into laughter when he realized his story wasn't going anywhere.

Changing the subject, Mr. Pollock said, "The Braves got no pitching." But he doesn't watch television anymore, so he missed the Braves in the World Series this year.

In fact, Mr. Pollock, who is now stooped with age but once stood 6- foot-9, doesn't do much anymore except sit in a chair, smoke his pipe and watch the traffic in the hall outside his room. None of his family is living.

"I'm glad God spared me to get this old," Mr. Pollock said. "I try to stay on the good side of God."

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