NEAL CONAN, host:

And now we remember an American soldier who was laid to rest today at Arlington National Cemetery. Retired Sergeant Mark Matthews died at the age of 111. He was the oldest living Buffalo Soldier, the name given to the men and women who served in the US military's all-black regiments. He served along the US-Mexican border in pursuit of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa and was a veteran of the Second World War. To tell us more about the exceptionally long life of Sergeant Matthews, we turn now to Joe Holley, staff writer for The Washington Post, who joins us from The Post's studio here in Washington. Good to speak with you.

Mr. JOE HOLLEY (The Washington Post): Hi, Neal. It's nice to talk to you.

CONAN: What do we know about what kind of a man Mark Matthews was?

Mr. HOLLEY: Mark Matthews was certainly a pioneer. I mean, he was a Buffalo Soldier beginning in the teens of the 20th century and was a soldier through his 40s, fought in World War II, if you can believe that, and apparently was deeply proud of his service, and in the years after his retirement, according to family members, he would sit on the front porch, and kids from the neighborhood would come and sit at his knee and he would tell them stories, and you can imagine they were amazing tales.

CONAN: Going into Mexico after Pancho Villa with Blackjack Pershing, yeah, some pretty amazing stories.

Mr. HOLLEY: That's right. From that to taking care of horses for President Roosevelt when he was stationed at Ft. Myer, Virginia, in the 1930s to fighting in the Pacific in World War II. So he had a store of tales to tell.

CONAN: And even some more recent ones. In more recent years, he got to meet the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of State, Colin Powell.

Mr. HOLLEY: That's right. You know, the Buffalo Soldiers were ignored, it seems to me, for a long time, and I think it was Colin Powell who probably brought them back into some kind of prominence and was instrumental in getting a monument created at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas, and after he sort of brought some limelight to them, Sergeant Matthews met Colin Powell, met Bill Clinton, met President Bush, and I think he enjoyed the notoriety toward the end of his life.

CONAN: He lived in Washington, DC. What did he do after he retired from the military?

Mr. HOLLEY: Well, keep in mind that he retired in 1949.

CONAN: Yeah, OK.

Mr. HOLLEY: And then he was a security guard for years and years for the National Institutes of Health nearby in Bethesda. And family members were telling me that both as security guard and after he retired a second time, he enjoyed fishing and would take kids with him, neighborhood kids again. And also, when these neighborhood kids needed help, the man they call `Daddy' was there. He would take them in. He would make sure they went to school, make sure they did their homework, things of that sort.

CONAN: We remember retired Sergeant Mark Matthews, who died recently at the age of 111, the oldest living Buffalo Soldier who served with the 10th Cavalry back on the American frontier in the early years of the previous century. Joe Holley, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. HOLLEY: You're welcome, Neal.

CONAN: Joe Holley is a staff writer for The Washington Post, and he joined us from the studio at The Post here in Washington, DC.

This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan.

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