Susannah Mushatt Jones (July 6, 1899 – May 12, 2016) was an American supercentenarian who was, at the age of 116 years, 311 days, the world’s oldest living person and the last American from the 1800s.She received tributes from the United States House of Representatives and from the Alabama House of Representatives “for a remarkable lifetime of exceptional achievement lived during three centuries.”
Susannah Mushatt was born to Callie and Mary Mushatt on July 6, 1899, in Lowndes County, Alabama. She was the third child and oldest daughter of eleven children. Her parents were African Americansharecroppers who farmed the same land as her grandparents. (Her grandmother, an ex-slave, reportedly lived for 117 years based on census data.) According to her family, she also has some Native American ancestry. As a young woman, she worked in the fields and was determined to escape that hard existence. On March 4, 1922, she graduated from the Calhoun Boarding High School and the graduation roster recognized her for studying “Negro Music in France”. After graduation, she wanted to become a teacher and was accepted to Tuskegee Institute’s Teacher’s Program. Her parents could not afford tuition, so in 1923, she moved to New York during the early stages of the Harlem Renaissance.
In 1928, she married Henry Jones but divorced him in 1933, saying in 2011 that she “didn’t know what became of him.” She had no children. She worked for wealthy families taking care of their children for $7 a week. During this time, she supported many of her relatives as they moved to New York. She also used some of her salary to establish The Calhoun Club, which was a college scholarship fund for African American students at her high school. She was active in her neighborhood for almost 30 years, participating in the “tenant patrol team”. In 1965, she retired and lived with her niece, Lavilla Watson, and helped care for Watson’s baby son. At the time of her death she resided at the Vandalia Senior Center in East New York, Brooklyn and had more than 100 nieces and nephews.
Health, diet and lifestyle
Jones was blind and partially deaf; she could not say much and she used a wheelchair. She only took high-blood pressure medication and a multivitamin. She became legally blind when she was 100. She refused cataract surgery or a recommended pacemaker and never had a mammogram or a colonoscopy. She met with a primary care physician three to four times a year.
Jones never smoked or consumed alcohol. She slept about ten hours a night and napped throughout the day. For breakfast, she always ate four strips of bacon along with scrambled eggs and grits. She also ate bacon throughout the day.
Jones has celebrated her last five birthdays at the Vandalia Senior Center in Brooklyn. On her 112th, she received tribute letters from both the mayor of New York City and the governor of New York. After the celebration, she said, “I wish it could be like this all the time.” On her 113th, she was escorted by Charles Barron.
Jones celebrated her 114th birthday six days late. Her family, friends and Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes praised her accomplishments. On her 115th, her niece, Lois Judge, told WABC-TV that Jones “gets tired easily these days, but it has been a good day today.” Jones did not speak at the celebration. Her great-great niece, a baby named Susannah after her, was also present.
Jones became the world’s oldest living person and one of two remaining people verified to have been born in the 1800s (along with Italian woman Emma Morano) upon the death of Jeralean Talley on June 17, 2015. On July 3, 2015, three days before her 116th birthday, she was presented with a certificate from Guinness World Records recognizing her as the oldest person alive.
Jones died on May 12, 2016. Following her death, Italian Emma Morano became the world’s oldest person and the last human to have been born in the 1800s.