Harlem’s oldest resident is also America’s oldest — Alelia Murphy feted on her 114th birthday
At age 114, Alelia Murphy, wearing a tiara, yellow suit and a smile, Murphy celebrated her birthday in Harlem on Friday. She’s believed to be the oldest person in the United States.
The crowd applauded as she was wheeled into the party room and sang along to a recording of “Happy Birthday” by Stevie Wonder. Every old person should be as healthy as Murphy — her blood pressure’s normal and she’s not diabetic, one of her granddaughters reports.
Murphy was born on July 6, 1905 in Grifton, NC. She moved to Harlem in 1926 — in the midst of the Harlem Renaissance. She was followed by her boyfriend from home, whom she married later that year.
As a young woman, Alelia enjoyed designing hats, and baking pies, and dancing. She liked going to the Savoy Ballroom — a dance spot on Lenox Ave. that Langston Hughes called the “Heartbeat of Harlem.”
She was a saleswoman for the Fuller Brush Company, which called her "The Queen of Sales.
Daughter Rose Green and granddaughters Nefer Nekhet and Crystal Lewis attended to Murphy throughout Friday’s party.
“She made me happy when I was young, so I try to make her happy now,” said Green, who did not give her age.
Nekhet, 50, who owns a hair salon in Brooklyn, said her grandmother taught her how to make apple pie from scratch and to put effort into everything she does.
“She taught me how to do things right the first time," said Nekhet. "And I’ve been married for 25 years, so I listened to Grandma.”
Murphy is a big fan of the Americas’ first African-American president. “She called Obama her guy," said Nekhet. "She contributed to his campaign twice.”
“She takes only vitamins and medication for her thyroid," said Nekhet. "No high blood pressure, no hypertension, no diabetes, nothing like that.”
Proclamations and letters were read from Mayor de Blasio, Attorney General Letitia James, Rep. Adriano Espaillat, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.
Members of the African American Caucus of the Service Employees International Union designated Murphy an honorary member, and draped a president’s red, green and black sash around her.
“We are looking at a Harlem landmark,” said state Sen. Brian Benjamin (D-Manhattan). He said that July 6 will always be known in Harlem as Alelia Murphy Day.
“Alelia Murphy is love, patience in slow motion,” said the Rev. Dr. C. Vernon Mason, who has worked with civil rights activist Al Sharpton.
Murphy didn’t speak during the event at the Harlem State Office Building. But according to its program, when she is asked the secret to her longevity, Murphy replies: “Obey god and treat people right”.