Peronneau was born in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, on 7 March 1902 (claimed 6 March). His parents were James Finley Peronneau Sr. and Florence. At the age of 16, he moved to New York, where he lived with his mother’s seven sisters, his aunts.
At some point, he married Ella Pitts. His wife passed away in 1935 (or 1939), and he raised their two sons (Milton and Robert) on his own. In January 1948, he became a member of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers. He asserted that he had been denied membership in the New York chapter, prompting him to travel to South Carolina to join. However, he returned to New York a year later, where he was transferred to the former Local 9 New York, now Local 1 Rego Park. He contributed to the construction of numerous iconic buildings in The Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn by laying bricks. He was compelled to retire at the age of 66 due to a brain aneurysm.
Peronneau was a civil rights activist who worked for the NAACP, which was located at Abyssinian Baptist Church on 138th Street in Harlem. He worked with civil rights activists like W.E.B. Du Bois and Walter Francis White. He was actively involved in the Marcus Garvey Movement. His travels took him to various parts of the world, including Africa, Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, and, as he put it, “every place Africans were transported to during slavery.”
His son Milton passed away in the 1960s, while Robert passed away in July 2013, aged 81. Peronneau had no grandchildren.
In February 2014, at the age of 111, he went missing for nine hours after boarding a bus, and he was subsequently found by employees of a Duane Reade store where he had entered. On his 112th birthday, his great-grandniece noted how he never smoked or drank alcohol, and cited one of his sayings, “Take care of your body, and your body will take care of you.”
Peronneau passed away in Brooklyn, New York, USA, on 26 March 2014, at the age of 112 years, 19 days.
In September 2013, following the death of Salustiano Sánchez Blázquez, he became the world’s oldest living man. However, at the time of his death, it was believed that Peronneau was a year younger and born in March 1903, based on information from census records. Consequently, the title was passed to Arturo Licata, who was nearly two months younger, and would survive Peronneau by just under a month.
Following his death, Alexander Imich became the oldest living man in the United States.
His age was verified by Daniel Gonik, Anson Davis, Oliver Thorpe, etc., and validated by LongeviQuest on 13 October 2023. Subsequently, he was recognized by LQ as the former world’s oldest living man.
* “Ernest Nathaniel Peronneau” – Find A Grave
* “111-year-old who went missing in Brooklyn found alive & well” – New York Post, 21 February 2014
* “Oldest city resident celebrates 112th birthday with party” – New York Post, 10 March 2014
* “NY1: Rep. Jeffries Celebrates Ernest Peronneau’s 112th Birthday” – YouTube, 10 March 2014
* “NY1: Brooklyn Man Celebrates 112th Birthday With Family and Friends” – Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, 11 March 2014
* “ERNEST PERONNEAU 1902—2014” – We Remember memorial