Colin Powell, 84, dies of COVID-related complications
He was a notable military leader and became the first Black U.S. Secretary of State during the George W. Bush Administration.
Colin Powell, the military general and the first Black U.S. Secretary of State has died of complications from COVID-19 at the age of 84.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” his family wrote in a Facebook post announcing his death, also noting he was fully vaccinated.
He passed away at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, while being treated for multiple myeloma.
Powell made history in 2001, when then-President George W. Bush appointed him the U.S. Secretary of State, becoming the first Black person to be named to the post.
During his confirmation hearing Powell said of his historic nomination: “I think it shows to the world what is possible in this country… It shows to the world that: Follow our model, and over a period of time from our beginning, if you believe in the values that espouse, you can see things as miraculous as me sitting before you to receive your approval.”
He, and later his successor, Condoleezza Rice were the two highest-ranking Black people in the history of the U.S. government, prior to Barack Obama’s election as president in 2008.
During his tenure as Secretary of State, Powell was a staunch advocate and supporter of the Iraq War.
Powell was born in Harlem, New York in 1937 to Jamaican immigrant parents. Raised in the South Bronx, he was a product of the New York City public school system, graduating from the City College of New York (CCNY) in 1958, and earning a bachelor’s degree in geology.
While at CCNY, he also participated in ROTC and that’s where he found his calling, receiving a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduating. That launched his military career.
In 1962, Powell was sent to his first of two tours of duty in Vietnam. During his first tour of duty, he was awarded a Purple Heart and later a Bronze Star.
He spent 35 years as a professional soldier, holding many command and staff positions, eventually rising to the rank of becoming a four-star general. In 1989, he was named Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command.
Powell’s first entry into politics was in 1972, when he was named as a White House fellow and then became an assistant to Frank Carlucci, then the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
In 1987, then-President Ronald Reagan appointed Powell to succeed Carlucci, who at that time was the National Security Advisor.
Two years later, then-President George H. W. Bush selected Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he played key roles in the Panama invasion, and the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations of the Persian Gulf crisis.
He was also the first Black individual to ever serve in both of those roles.
After retiring from his role as Secretary of State in 2005, Powell returned to private life. However, he continued to speak out on various issues, particularly showing support for Democratic presidential candidates, despite being a Republican for the majority of his political career.
Powell is survived by his wife of 59 years, three children and two grandchildren.