“I never drunk whiskey,” Braswell said Saturday at a birthday party attended by dozens of family members and friends. “I never had been in jail or any kind of trouble. I always thank God for letting me stay out of those jailhouses and bad company.”
Braswell was born on March 20, 1909, in Walton County, between Atlanta and Athens, but spent most of his life in Vinings. He is the last survivor of 11 children, though he had a sister who lived to be 103 and others who came close.
“All of them lived to be at least in their 90s except for two of them,” said Doris Rockefeller, who at 62 is Braswell’s youngest of four stepdaughters. He also has a biological son, Rufus Mitchell, 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren, some of whom are biological and others he considers so.
Braswell now lives in Powder Springs with his second wife, Leanner, who he married 45 years ago.
Braswell worked many jobs, including at the Florida East Coast Railway, a job he went to Miami to take when he was 16, and back in Georgia on the Southern Railway. At one point, he said he worked in a saw mill without being paid.
“I worked for two years and didn’t see a nickel,” Braswell said.
Later on, Braswell worked as campground caretaker at the Bert Adams Boy Scout Camp, located where Interstate 285 now runs into Paces Ferry Road, and retired at 65 from his job in lawn maintenance at the Brawner Sanitarium, a hospital for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness in Smyrna.
Despite growing up as a black man during a time of racial segregation, Rockefeller’s husband, Blair, said he was never bitter.
“He’s never judged a man by the color of his skin,” Blair Rockefeller said.
Braswell also worked as a “backyard barber,” cutting hair on the side, his niece Renita Head said. Among his other hobbies were fishing and hunting. He still loves the Atlanta Braves and Falcons.
Perhaps most remarkably, Braswell just gave up driving a few years ago.
“I think when he was 100, they took his license,” Head said. “He’s still pretty much in good health.”
And then there is going to Piccadilly Cafeteria, where he had his birthday party.
“We’ve been going to the Piccadilly for 50 years,” stepdaughter Jacqueline Harris said. “It’s the only place he wants to eat. He thinks the world of this place.”
Head said Braswell’s doctor told him that he believes he is the oldest black man living in Georgia.
Not all has been good. Braswell does say he is disappointed by some of the moral decline he has seen over the years.
“I hate to say it, but the people have changed,” he said. “I never have cussed or used bad language in my life.”