EMMA FAUST TILLMAN, 114 Oldest-known person
Emma Faust Tillman, who was born to former slaves and lived to see 21 American presidencies, died Sunday night at a nursing home in East Hartford, Conn., four days after becoming the oldest-known person.
Mrs. Tillman, who lived independently until she was 110, had assumed the title Wednesday with the death of 115-year-old Emiliano Mercado del Toro of Puerto Rico, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
With her death, the world's oldest person is believed to be Yone Minagawa of Fukuoka, Japan, who is 114, Guinness said.
Mrs. Tillman was deeply religious since childhood and always attributed her longevity to God's will, friends and family members said. A great-nephew, former Hartford Fire Chief John B. Stewart Jr., has said she never smoked, never drank, didn't need glasses and only reluctantly agreed to wear a hearing aid.
She was born Nov. 22, 1892, during the administration of President Benjamin Harrison, on a plantation near Gibsonville, N.C., where her father was born into slavery and where her parents and grandfather were sharecroppers, according to interviews she gave the Glastonbury, Conn., Historical Society for a 1994 newsletter.
She was one of 23 children in the family, some of whom died at birth or in infancy. Others lived almost as long, including a brother who died at 108, a sister who reached 105 and two others who reached 102.
Seeking to escape Jim Crow legislation and the economic havoc that the boll weevil had wreaked on the region's cotton crops, the Fausts moved from North Carolina to Glastonbury in 1900.
Her father and some brothers got jobs on area farms, while Mrs. Tillman and her mother cooked, picked and sold berries and did housework for white families.
She was the only black student in her high school when she graduated in 1909, but she said she never experienced discrimination.
Mrs. Tillman was a cook, maid, party caterer and caretaker for several wealthy families. She later ran a baking and catering service whose regular customers included Dr. Thomas Hepburn, father of actress Katharine Hepburn.
She married Arthur Tillman in 1914, and they raised two daughters in Hartford before his death in 1939.
One of her daughters is deceased and the other, Marjorie, was her caretaker and a constant presence with her at the nursing home.