Luke Martin Jr. was born to a former Civil War soldier in 1917, when the father was in his 80s. Now, at 97, Martin has died, meaning the world has lost one of the last surviving sons of a Civil War veteran; only eight remain, according to a roster. His death comes 179 years after his father, Luke Martin Sr., was born, the AP reports. The elder Martin escaped slavery in Hertford, North Carolina, heading to New Bern after Union soldiers had taken it. He enlisted with one of the first black regiments and was wounded in battle in Florida. Later, he worked as a mason; Martin was his youngest child, the Wilmington Star-News reports.
Martin Jr. was born in New Bern—and he died in the same house, which his father built, the Star-News reports. Growing up, he took work in tobacco fields and later in masonry as New Bern's first black contractor. Having been born just before the US entered World War I, he saw every major US war this century and last; he also saw Jim Crow fall and the triumphs of the Civil Rights movement. A beloved figure in his town, he had a day named after him last year and an exhibit of his family's belongings in September. He also received the state's highest honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, and was celebrated on the US House floor. His take on his humble beginnings: "It was hard, but we didn’t know it. I don’t remember no hard times; all my times were good."