Army veteran from Compton celebrates 107th birthday with neighborhood block party

Jaysha Patel Image
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
Compton veteran celebrates 107th birthday
Veteran and beloved Compton resident Joe Harris celebrated turning 107 with family and neighbors.

COMPTON, Calif. (KABC) -- It's not every day you get to meet a centenarian - not to mention someone who has reached 107. Veteran and beloved Compton resident Joe Harris just hit that milestone.

"The party was wonderful for the block. We have not seen our family or he has not seen his nieces and nephews in four years due to the pandemic of course, and today was a very enjoyable wonderful day," said Harris's daughter, Tanya Pittman.

His birthday included cake and champagne, family and friends.

Harris is revered as a veteran who has a long history of serving his country. He was part of the Buffalo Soldiers, and then was a member of the triple nickel paratrooper unit, which was the first African American paratroop unit in the US Army.

"There was a special assignment given by President Roosevelt to start a unit especially to put out fires that would be lit by the Japanese on the Oregon coast. The reason why these men had to be so brave is because they dropped them from the airplanes directly into the fire," said friend and neighbor Omar Bradley.

They say he made 72 successful jumps during World War II.

Harris has been living in Compton for more than 60 years.

"He was just a surrogate father for everybody and his discipline that he acquired in his service spread throughout the community, not just this part," said Bradley.

His friends and family say he's a guardian of the neighborhood who looks after everyone - which is why it was so important for them to come together to celebrate his very special 107th birthday.