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Tuskegee Airman celebrates 100th birthday in Georgia

Richard Rutledge's son credits a healthy diet and lots of exercise with his dad's longevity.

DECATUR, Ga. — You may have seen a smiling Georgian’s face if you watched the Today Show Thursday morning as Tuskegee Airman Richard Rutledge celebrates his 100th birthday.

Rutledge's family said he always had high standards for himself and others, along with persistence, accomplishing whatever he sets his mind to.

Family from across the country, including several great-grandchildren, gathered in DeKalb County to celebrate his big day.

The father of six served as a Tuskegee Airman. The group of mostly Black military pilots and airmen served in World War II. 

Rutledge started off as a warrant officer because he didn't meet the college requirement to train as a pilot, but he never gave up and got his pilot's license in his 40s. 

Credit: Provided
Tuskegee Airman Richard Rutledge

11Alive asked his son Gordon about the centenarian's secret to longevity. 

“He always used to tell me, ‘Son, if you don't want to get fat, don't eat,’ and he stayed like 120, 130 pounds for most of his life," Gordon Rutledge said. "He was active. He always used to do housework around the house and raked the leaves, so being active and watching his diet helped.”

Gordon said his dad has dementia, so his short-term memory isn't great. His long-term memory is still spot-on, and Richard knows who his son is each time he calls. 

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