Records Show Man Was Not U.S. Oldest

March 2, 2004; Clinton, MD ( AP) -- In the week since William Coates' death, his family has been arranging a funeral befitting a man purported to have lived for 114 years, which, if true, would have ranked him among the oldest people in the United States. But U.S. Census records indicate that Coates, who had been celebrated for his age in news stories and public proclamations, was no older than 92 when he died February 24th.

"It was not a legitimate claim -- he was not 114," said Dr. L. Stephen Coles, Co-Founder of the Gerontology Research Group, a nonprofit organization that keeps what it says is a carefully documented roster of people 110 or older. "We're not saying that anyone in the Coates family was trying to deceive anyone," Coles said. However, a researcher for the group found an old Census register on the Internet that lists Coates, his seven siblings and their parents as living together in Prince George's County in 1930. The census-taker noted that William Coates was the oldest sibling, at age 18.

None of Coates' relatives claimed he was 114 when he died last week. Rather, they have said they knew few details of his life. And they reacted Monday to the Census records with the same exasperation they expressed over the attention given to him upon his death. "I'm leaving it as it is," said Ann Hazel, 67, a Niece. As for her Uncle's purported age of 114, Hazel said, "Everyone who was older than me said he was about that age."

It is unclear who initially asserted that Coates was born in 1889. Irving H. Smith, Director of a Prince George's Senior Citizens Center who hosts an annual celebration for centenarians, has asserted that Coates was the county's oldest citizen. He said he based this on conversations with Coates' relatives and on records at the Clinton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where Coates spent his last years. The home confirmed that its records list Coates' birth date as June 2, 1889. But it's not clear where that information came from. " To be honest," Smith said, " about the only fact we know for sure is that he's dead."

Here is the original story as it appeared in Associated Press...

William Coates, Believed To Be Oldest Man in U.S., Dead at 114

February 25, 2004; Clinton, MD ( AP) -- William Coates was a ladies' man to the end. Coates, believed to be America's oldest man, died Monday at age 114 with two of his Children and a Granddaughter at his side. Even at the age of 110, Coates was still charming the ladies during Prince George's Annual Celebration of Centenarians. "He really lit up every single party and event that we had for the seniors," said Irving Smith, Director of the Evelyn Cole Senior Center in Seat Pleasant, who has done extensive research on centenarians.

Coates was born June 2, 1889, and according to Smith, he was the oldest man in America. At one time he was believed to be the second-oldest man in the world, although he didn't have a Birth Certificate to prove it. "It really was a blessing that my father lived so long," said Daughter Maxine Coates. "He enjoyed life and being with his family." William Coates worked on a commercial tobacco farm until he got a job building roads for the state of Maryland. He had nine Children, 21 Grandchildren, and 37 Great-Grandchildren. AP-WS-02-25-04 0449 EST