Gen. Colin Powell, the influential former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who played a pivotal policy role during the administration of then-President George W. Bush, died Monday at 84 from complications related to COVID-19, his family announced.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” his family said in a statement, adding that he was fully vaccinated.
The statement continued, “We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment.”
Colin Luther Powell (/ˈkoʊlɪn/; April 5, 1937 – October 18, 2021) was an American politician, diplomat and four-star general who served as the 65th United States Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African-American Secretary of State. Prior to the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008, he and his successor, Condoleezza Rice, were the highest-ranking African Americans in the history of the federal executive branch (by virtue of the Secretary of State standing fourth in the presidential line of succession). He served as the 16th United States National Security Advisor from 1987 to 1989 and as the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993.
Powell was born in New York City in 1937 and was raised in the South Bronx. His parents, Luther and Maud Powell, immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. He was educated in the New York City public schools, graduating from the City College of New York (CCNY), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in geology. He also participated in ROTC at CCNY and received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in June 1958. He was a professional soldier for 35 years, during which time he held many command and staff positions and rose to the rank of four-star general. He was Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command in 1989.
Powell’s last assignment, from October 1989 to September 1993, was as the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense. During this time, he oversaw 28 crises, including the invasion of Panama in 1989 and Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq in 1990–1991. He formulated the Powell Doctrine which limits American military action unless it satisfies criteria regarding American national security interests, overwhelming force, and widespread public support. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under Republican President George W. Bush. His term was highly controversial regarding his inaccurate justification for America’s Iraq War in 2003. He was forced to resign after Bush was reelected in 2004.
In 1995 Powell wrote his autobiography, My American Journey, and then in retirement another book, It Worked for Me, Lessons in Life and Leadership (2012). He pursued a career as a public speaker, addressing audiences across the country and abroad. Prior to his appointment as Secretary of State, Powell was the chairman of America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing people from every sector of American life to build the character and competence of young people. He won numerous U.S. and foreign military awards and decorations. His civilian awards included the Presidential Medal of Freedom (twice), the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal, and the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal. Several schools and other institutions were named in his honor and he held honorary degrees from universities and colleges across the country. In 2016, while not a candidate for that year’s election, he received three electoral votes from Washington for the office of President of the United States.
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