Colin Powell, the Army general who served as both chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later as U.S. secretary of state, has died of complications from COVID-19 at age 84.
A statement from the Powell family, posted to Powell’s Facebook page, reads: “Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away this morning due to complications from Covid 19. He was fully vaccinated. We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”
Powell served under four presidents — Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — at the very top of the national security establishment, first as deputy national security adviser and then as national security adviser. He was later appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior ranking member of the U.S. armed forces and top military adviser to the president.
Powell was the first African-American ever to hold the post of Joint Chiefs chairman, and the first to be secretary of state, a position he held from 2001 to 2005 under President George W. Bush.
Powell helped shape American defense and foreign policy. He was in top posts during the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the downsizing of the military after the end of the Cold War, the 1989 invasion of Panama, the 1991 Gulf War, the 1992-93 engagement in Somalia, and the crisis in Bosnia.
Following his 1993 retirement from the Army at the rank of four-star general, Powell’s supporters urged him to enter politics, touting him as the only candidate with the moral stature needed to unite the country and heal longstanding racial wounds.
Throughout his service in the military, Powell never made his political leanings known. Although he served under both Democratic and Republican administrations, it wasn’t until 1995 that Powell announced that he had registered as a Republican. He publicly supported the candidacy of only two presidential candidates: Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama, both Democrats.
Powell was engaged in several notable humanitarian and personal efforts. In 1994, he, former President Jimmy Carter and former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., embarked on a peacekeeping mission in Haiti, during which they were able to help bring to an end to military rule and establish an elected government for the country.
In 1995, Powell published his autobiography, My American Journey, in which he touched on everything from his military experiences to more personal matters. Powell was also involved in America’s Promise, a non-profit organization geared toward empowering young people, for which he served as chairman from 1997-2000.
Powell spent his entire adult life in service to his country. He leaves behind his wife of 48 years, Alma Powell, and his son, Michael.
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