Mississippi Winn, a Louisiana woman believed to have been the oldest living African-American and the seventh-oldest living person in the world, died Jan. 14 at age 113.
Gerontologists believe the vibrant former domestic worker, who died in a nursing home in Shreveport, La., was one of two Americans left whose parents were U.S. slaves.
Winn’s family members described her as a “strong-willed disciplinarian.”
“She was living on her own until she was 103,” Marcy C. Hollins, her great-niece, told the Associated Press. Winn even took walks and cooked for herself, Hollins added. “She just believed she could handle anything.”
Robert Young of the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, which confirmed Winn’s status as the oldest African-American, said Winn was upbeat when they met in July.
“When I asked her how old she was, she knew she was 113 but she thought she was young,” he said. “She always thought there would be a next year. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. That was just the thing—she had a very positive attitude.”
Winn, who went by the nickname Sweetie, was born in Shreveport on March 31, 1897, according to a biography provided by the city. She was the sixth of eight children, including a sister who died in 2000 at age 100.
Winn was a cook, caretaker and faithful member of the city’s Avenue Baptist Church for 83 years. Her favorite hobbies were sewing and reading the Bible, according to the biography. The super-centenarian never married or had children, but she is survived by a great-niece, great-nephew and great-great nephew.
The mayor of her city declared “Miss Mississippi Winn Day” on March 31 when she turned 113.
“One of the reasons for her longevity was that she just kind of took things as they’d come, everyday life and living,” Hollins said. “She didn’t let nothing upset her and get all hyped up by some of the things, as we do.”
Following Winn’s death, Mamie Rearden, 112, of South Carolina claimed the title of oldest known living African-American, Young said. Eunice Sanborn, 114, of East Texas is the world’s oldest known living person.