Colin Powell, the first black Secretary of State who formulated foreign policy under several presidents, died Monday morning at the age of 84 of complications from COVID.
The Pentagon powerhouse who served as a soldier in Vietnam and went on to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was fully vaccinated and battling blood cancer and Parkinson’s when he passed away at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland, according to his family.
Retired Four-Star General Powell, who was also suffering from Parkinson’s, is survived by his wife of 59 years, Alma, and three children, and has a celebrated career that saw him rise up the military ranks after growing up in a Jamaican immigrant family in Harlem.
Alma Powell also had a breakthrough case of COVID but responded to treatment, according to reports.
His family confirmed his death in a statement on Facebook, but didn’t mention whether he had received a booster shot. It’s also unclear when he was diagnosed with COVID or how long he was hospitalized for, but he had previously been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that impacts the body’s ability to fight infections.
‘General 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’, his family’s statement said.
‘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.’ He served under several Republican administrations – including for Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.
President Joe Biden released a statement shortly after noon on Monday, four hours after his death was announced, commending Powell as having ‘the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat’ and commemorating his humble beginnings.
‘Jill and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity, General Colin Powell,’ Biden said. ‘The son of immigrants, born in New York City, raised in Harlem and the South Bronx, a graduate of the City College of New York, he rose to the highest ranks of the United States military and to advise four presidents. He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others.’
‘As a Senator, I worked closely with him when he served as National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as Secretary of State. Over our many years working together – even in disagreement – Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect.’
The first black Secretary of State, Colin Powell (left), died Monday at the age of 84 due to complications from COVID-19. He is leaving behind his wife, Alma (right), who also had a breakthrough case of coronavirus
Powell is survived by his wife Alma (pictured) and three children – Michael, Linda and Annemarie. He and Alma met while Powell was stationed in Fort Devens, Massachusetts and got married in 1962
A young 1950s Powell shown on left, and on right the most recent image of Powell on September 11, 2021 coming off the stage at the Kennedy Center after speaking at a 9/11 Commemoration concert featuring the National Symphony Orchestra and the United States Marine Band
Powell’s family announced his death on Facebook Monday morning. They said he was fully vaccinated against coronavirus
Powell (second right) poses with his wife Alma (right) and three children – Linda, Michael and Annemarie – at the White House after being appointed as National Security Advisor to Ronald Reagan in 1987
Linda Powell, one of Powell’s daughters, posted this touching family tribute to Instagram after her trailblazing dad’s death
He listed off Powell’s numerous accomplishments both on and off the battlefield, adding: ‘Above all, Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times. He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business—something I learned firsthand on the race track when I was Vice President. And I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and for our shared battle for the soul of the nation. I will miss being able to call on his wisdom in the future.’
Former Presidents Bush and Carter, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also led tributes from around the world to the larger-than-life figure, who rose from modest means to oversee some of the most significant foreign policy shifts across the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
The retired four-star general’s decades-long legacy was marred by a 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council in which he claimed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
‘Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell’, they said in a joint statement. ‘He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam.
Colin Powell and his battle with myeloma, the blood cancer that devastates the body’s ability to produce antibodies to fight infection
Before his death former Secretary of State Colin Powell had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that suppresses the immune system and prevents the production of antibodies. He was fully vaccinated, but even the immunocompromised are at greater risk if they contract COVID.
While immunocompromised people, like Powell, had first access to the COVID-19 booster shot, it is unclear if had received his.
In a study published in July, researchers found that just 45 percent of those with active multiple myeloma ‘developed an adequate response’ after receiving either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, immunocompromised individuals make up 40-44 per cent of hospitalized coronavirus breakthrough cases.
Multiple myeloma is a cancer that begins to form in bone marrow.
While plasma cells ordinary help the body fight infection, in people with multiple myeloma the cells that live inside soft marrow rapidly develop to cause tumors in hard marrow.
As it causes the tough bone to weaken it makes it difficult to develop good blood cells and platelets.
There is no known cure for the form of blood cancer.
As COVID vaccines became mainstream in the spring, a study found that 1 in 10 cancer patients did not produce high enough levels of antibodies after the second dose – meaning the vaccine is less effective in cancer patients.
Approximately 30,000 African Americans are diagnosed with multiple myeloma each year. Black people are twice more likely to develop the disease than white people.
Some medical experts believe that occupational exposure can play a part in developing the disease. Sufferers with jobs that expose people to petroleum, herbicides, heavy metals and an extensive list of other things have a higher likelihood or developing the blood cancer.
Most people who suffer from the disease – 96 oer cent – are over 45 years old. People over the age of 65 make up 63 per cent of the group.
Men are also more likely to have multiple myeloma.
Those with a family history of it are four times more at risk – and people considered obese are also at higher risk.
Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) has also been linked.
While MGUS – the development of abnormal monoclonal protein produced by white blood cells – can be considered unproblematic, some have linked it to multiple myeloma.
Strong cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, stem cell transplants and various drugs can help those living with multiple myeloma live a longer life.
Complications can include anemia, kidney failure, dangerously high levels of calcium in the blood, organ infection and fractures or a loss of movement.
‘Many Presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience. He was National Security Adviser under President Reagan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under my father and President Clinton, and Secretary of State during my administration.
‘He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad.
‘And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.’
The oldest living former president, Jimmy Carter, 97, also expressed his condolences for his former staffer.
‘A true patriot and public servant, we were honored to work beside him to strengthen communities in the United States, help resolve conflict in Haiti, and observe elections in Jamaica,’ Carter released in a statement. ‘His courage and integrity will be an inspiration for generations to come.’
Powell served in Carter’s Democratic administration as an executive assistant in the Energy and Defense Departments.
His first senior White House role came when Ronald Reagan appointed him to be his national security adviser.
The Reagan Foundation released a statement on Monday declaring Powell’s life to be emblematic of the ‘American Dream.’
It also credited Powell for helping Reagan bring an end to the Cold War.
‘With sadness, the Reagan Foundation joins the American people in mourning the loss of Gen. Colin Powell. His life story was, in many respects, a reflection of the American Dream: Raised in the South Bronx as the son of hard-working immigrants, he rose to the highest reaches of our nation’s military and political leadership,’ the late president’s foundation wrote.
‘His wise counsel was indispensable to many of President Reagan’s foreign policy triumphs – most significantly, bringing a peaceful end to the Cold War.
‘President Reagan trusted Colin Powell for his sound and honest advice on what was right for the country. He often shared with friends that he hoped one day Colin Powell would run for president and that, if he did, he would proudly vote for him.
‘Today, the Reagan Foundation is grateful for Gen. Powell’s extraordinary service, and we extend our deepest condolences to Alma and his family at this difficult time.’
The four star general was the first black secretary of State and to this day is the only black man to ever serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He served under several Republican administrations – including for Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Also, from 1991-1993, he served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Bill Clinton after being appointed to the post halfway through Bush Sr’s tenure.
‘Colin Powell was a courageous soldier, a skilled commander, a dedicated diplomat, and a good and decent man. The son of immigrants, he rose to the top levels of military, civilian, and non-governmental service through intelligence, character, and the ability to see the big picture and attend to the smallest details,’ Clinton said through his spokesman Angel Urena.
‘He lived the promise of America, and spent a lifetime working to help our country, especially our young people, live up to its own ideals and noblest aspirations at home and around the world. Hillary and I send our condolences to Alma, Michael, Linda, Annemarie, the entire Powell family, and all the people whose lives he touched through his service and example.’
Former President Barack Obama also weighed in, calling Powell ‘an exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot.’
‘And although he’d be the first to acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right, his actions reflected what he believed was best for America and the people he served.’
On a personal level, Obama stated he was ‘deeply appreciative’ that Powell not only endorsed him in 2008 but ‘what impressed me more was how he did it.’
‘At a time when conspiracy theories were swirling, with some questioning my faith, General Powell took the opportunity to get to the heart of the matter in a way only he could.’
He recalled a time Powell corrected someone on Obama’s religious faith, and added, ‘What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?’
Obama continued on to say ‘That’s who Colin Powell was.’
Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken memorialized his Republican predecessor in a televised address late Monday morning.
Blinken said he was a ‘huge admirer’ of Powell’s and said the late general was always ‘very generous’ with him.
‘Secretary Powell was, simply and completely, a leader and he knew how to build a strong and united team. He treated people the way he expected them to treat each other and made sure that they knew he would always have their back – the result was that his people would walk through walls for him,’ Blinken said.
Blinken credited Powell for modernizing the State Department, working to shift American focus to diplomacy-based solutions rather than military might and establishing the Powell Doctrine for military use-of-force.
‘Colin Powell dedicated his life to public service because he never stopped believing in America, and we believe in America in no small part because it helped produce someone like Colin Powell. Thank you, Mr. Secretary,’ he concluded.
‘He believed in the promise of America because he lived it’: Joe Biden’s statement on the passing of ‘warrior and diplomat’ Colin Powell
Jill and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity, General Colin Powell.
The son of immigrants, born in New York City, raised in Harlem and the South Bronx, a graduate of the City College of New York, he rose to the highest ranks of the United States military and to advise four presidents. He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others.
As a Senator, I worked closely with him when he served as National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as Secretary of State. Over our many years working together – even in disagreement – Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect.
Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all. Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that military might alone was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity. From his front-seat view of history, advising presidents and shaping our nation’s policies, Colin led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong. Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else—in uniform and out—and it earned him the universal respect of the American people.
Having repeatedly broken racial barriers, blazing a trail for others to follow in Federal Government service, Colin was committed throughout his life to investing in the next generation of leadership. Whether through his care for the women and men serving under his command and the diplomats he led, or through the work he shared with his wife Alma at the America’s Promise Alliance to lift up young people, or through his years leading the Eisenhower Fellowships, Colin’s leadership always included a focus on future.
Above all, Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times. He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business—something I learned firsthand on the race track when I was Vice President. And I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and for our shared battle for the soul of the nation. I will miss being able to call on his wisdom in the future.
Jill and I are sending all our love and strength to Alma, their children, Linda, Annemarie, and Michael, their grandchildren, and the entire Powell family. Our nation mourns with you.
Colin Powell was a good man.
He will be remembered as one of our great Americans.
‘The world lost one of the greatest leaders we have ever witnessed,’ Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said when speaking of Powell’s passing on Monday. ‘Alma lost a great husband. And I lost a tremendous personal friend & mentor. He has been my mentor for a number of years. He always made time for me.’
‘And I can always go to him with tough issues, he always had great, great counsel,’ Biden’s top civilian military leader continued.
Austin paid tribute to the ‘first African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, first African American Secretary of State, a man who was respected around the globe.’
‘It will be, quite frankly, it is not possible to replace him,’ he said. ‘We will miss him. Again, my thoughts & prayers go out to the family. And we’re deeply, deeply saddened to learn with this.’
Austin added that he feels ‘as if I have a hole in my heart.’
Despite being a lifelong Republican, Powell said in June 2020 that he was planning to vote for Joe Biden because Trump ‘drifted away’ from the Constitution and was turned off by the president’s inclination to insult ‘anybody who dares to speak against him’.
Trump responded to the criticism in a tweet at the time saying: ‘Powell, a real stiff who was very responsible for getting us into the disastrous Middle East Wars, just announced he will be voting for another stiff, Sleepy Joe Biden.’
Powell praised other retired generals who denounced the then-president – specifically in response to the protests that precipitated after the death of George Floyd.
‘I think what we’re seeing now with the most massive protest movement I have ever seen in my life, I think it suggests that the country is getting wise to this and we’re not going to put up with it anymore,’ Powell told CNN at the time.
Powell was born to Jamaican immigrants in New York City and raised in the South Bronx, according to his biography.
He first joined the military as part of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) during college and went on to serve as an Army lieutenant after graduation.
Powell served as secretary of State under President George W. Bush from 2001-2005 (pictured with Bush in the Rose Garden less than two weeks after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks)
Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. To this day he is the only black man to have ever held that post (pictured at a press conference with Clinton in September 1994)
Powell got his first senior White House gig when Ronald Reagan named him as his national security adviser (pictured on Thursday, November 5, 1987 in Washington for outgoing Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger)
Powell speaks with then-President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on December 1, 2010
Among the many awards Powell earned over the years was the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice. Here First Lady Barbara Bush fastens the Medal around Powell’s neck as then-President George H. W. Bush watches in 1991
Politicians and pundits were taken back by the seemingly sudden death.
Rudy Giuliani, former New York City Mayor and personal attorney to Trump, tweeted: ‘Colin Powell was a great American and a good friend.’
‘I was one of a small, but determined group, that urged him to run for President in 1996,’ he added. ‘What if???’
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose years-long and sometimes strained relationship with Powell survived both Bush administrations, said he was ‘fortunate’ to have worked with the late Republican.
‘I’m deeply saddened to learn that America has lost a leader and statesman. General Powell had a remarkably distinguished career, and I was fortunate to work with him. He was a man who loved his country and served her long and well,’ Cheney wrote in a statement released by his daughter, GOP Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney.
‘Working with him during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I saw first-hand General Powell’s dedication to the United States and his commitment to the brave and selfless men and women who serve our country in uniform. Colin was a trailblazer and role model for so many: the son of immigrants who rose to become National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of State.
‘Lynn and I extend our prayers and profound condolences to his wife, Alma, and to their children. His legacy and unparalleled record of service will never be forgotten.’
Richard Grenell, the former Acting Director of National Intelligence under Trump, tweeted: ‘Thank you for your service, former Secretary of State Colin Powell. RIP. And a sincere thank you to your family for their sacrifices, too.’
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a fellow military veteran, wished Powell’s family well and called the late general ‘legendary.’
‘I was surprised and saddened to hear of the passing of one of the great American leaders of any time, General Colin Powell. His service to our nation was legendary on so many fronts,’ Graham wrote in a series of Twitter posts. ‘General Powell cared deeply about the men and women of the State Department. He is noted as a great military leader, justifiably so, but he also had a passion for diplomacy and the benefits of avoiding war by stabilizing troubled regions.’
‘The men and women of the foreign service never had a better champion. My prayers are with his family and many friends in the days ahead.’
Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah also weight in.
‘Today, the nation lost a man of undaunted courage and a champion of character,’ he tweeted. ‘A statesmen & trailblazer, devoted to America and the cause of liberty, Colin Powell’s legacy of service & honor will long inspire.’
‘Ann & I offer our love & sincere condolences to Alma and his family.’
Democratic lawmakers also chimed in to thank Powell for his lifetime of service. Progressive Rep. Maxine Waters of California wrote on Twitter, ‘Colin Powell served as a four-star Army general, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, & Secretary of State. He was a highly accomplished individual who made so many people in this country proud, especially those of us in the Black community. May he rest in peace.’
Stacey Abrams, the first black woman from a major political party to run for governor of Georgia, tweeted: ‘Godspeed to Secretary Colin Powell who led with integrity, admitted fallibility and defended democracy. Deepest condolences to his loved ones and friends.’
Powell started his military tenure in the Vietnam War. This photo from 1986 shows him and wife Alma during a farewell ceremony in Frankfurt when Powell was a Lieutenant General
Powell is sworn in as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney (left) in 1989
Powell demonstrating on a map of downtown Baghdad in a 1993 press conference in Iraq. He had continued to serve as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair under the Clinton administration for nearly Clinton’s entire first year
Then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell talks with a soldier who has stomach problems while visiting the Air Transportable Hospital in Saudi Arabia in September 1990
‘My condolences to the family of Colin Powell,’ the Reverend Al Sharpton, a civil rights leader, tweeted.
‘Though we disagreed on many issues, I always respected him and was proud of his achievements,’ the liberal added. ‘When he and I ran into each other and conversed, I always left feeling he was a sincere and committed man to what he believed in.’
New York State Attorney General Letitia James tweeted: ‘General Colin Powell was a proud New Yorker and City College graduate who always put his country first.’
‘Colin Powell will be missed, and my condolences go to his family and loved ones,’ she added. ‘May he rest in peace.’
Former Bush Jr. official Robert Charles also responded on Fox Monday morning: ‘He was ever a listener but he is honest as the day is long. This is a man who was his own man and a great leader.’
‘We won’t see the likes of Colin Powell again for a long time,’ he added.
Christine Todd Whitman, who served alongside Powell as a Cabinet secretary in the George W. Bush administration, tweeted: ‘I’m heartbroken. #ColinPowell was a wonderful person, public servant and friend.’
‘We did so much together in our various roles that it’s hard to imagine not seeing him again,’ said Whitman, a former governor of New Jersey.
‘My prayers go out to Alma, his family, and to all whose lives he touched,’ she added.
‘Rest In Peace, friend.’
‘This is hitting me hard,’ wrote Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Jaime Harrison.
The former candidate for a Senate seat in South Carolina added: ‘Colin Powell was a statesman who put his country & family above all else.’
‘As a young Black man, he inspired me & showed that there are no limits to what we can be or achieve,’ Harrison tweeted. ‘Sending my prayers to his family.’
The Pentagon powerhouse: How the first black Secretary of State Colin Powell, 84, went from a Jamaican immigrant family in the Bronx, to a solider in Vietnam and rose rapidly in ranks to lead the U.S. into the Gulf War and Iraq
Colin Powell has died at age 84, his family announced (pictured at his infamous UN address in February 2003)
Colin Powell, the Harlem-born son of Jamaican immigrants who was awarded military honors for saving fellow soldiers from a burning helicopter crash in Vietnam and went on to become the first black Secretary of State, has died at age 84.
The former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was fully vaccinated but died of COVID-19 complications, his family announced on Facebook.
He was born in New York on April 5, 1937 to Luther and Maude Powell, who arrived in Philadelphia on a ‘banana boat’ steamer from Jamaica in the 1920s.
His parents referred to him as ‘Kahlin’, the British pronunciation Jamaicans used, when he was growing up. But kids on the street started calling him ‘Kohlin’ in honor of the hero Second World War fighter pilot Colin Kelly Jr, who died fighting the Japanese navy in the days after Pearl Harbor.
Powell spent his youth being educated in the New York City public school system through college, when a military career first attracted his attention.
A larger-than-life figure across global community, Powell rose from modest means to oversee some of the most significant foreign policy shifts across the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
The retired four-star general’s decades-long legacy was marred by a 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council in which he claimed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Using information that was later proven false, the then-Secretary of State used the purported evidence to justify the US invasion of Iraq. He stepped down from his position at the end of Bush’s first term.
Powell told ABC in 2005 he regarded the speech as a ‘blot’ that will ‘always be a part of my record,’ adding ‘It was painful. It’s painful now.’
But the former chief diplomat was highly regarded across multiple administrations beginning as a White House Fellow under Richard Nixon.
Along with his many military honors he also earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice, the Congressional Gold Medal and an award from the NAACP.
‘Many Presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience,’ George W. Bush wrote in a statement on Powell’s death. ‘He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.’
Powell grew up in the South Bronx and graduated from Morris High School in 1954.
His parents referred to him as ‘Chal-in’, the British pronunciation Jamaicans used, when he was growing up. But kids on the street started calling him ‘Coh-lin’ in honor of the hero Second World War fighter pilot Colin Kelly Jr, who died fighting the Japanese navy in the days after Pearl Harbor.
Powell was born in Harlem, New York to Jamaican immigrant parents in 1937. His mother and father arrived in Philadelphia on a ‘banana boat’ from the Caribbean island in the 1920s
Powell’s parents (pictured in their British passport photos) immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in the 1920s
Powell posted this photo of himself from the 1950s on Facebook. He spent much of his early years in the South Bronx
Powell met his wife, Alma Johnson, while stationed in Massachusetts and married her in 1962
Cousin of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Muriel Meggie, foreground, talks about the house that was a home of Powell’s father in Top Hill, Jamaica in this Dec. 17, 2000 file photo
He joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) while at the City College of New York, where he was studying to earn a Bachelor of Science in Geology.
Along with earning his degree Powell graduated college in 1958 as a second lieutenant in the US Army.
That led to a 35-year career in the Army, including leading the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
While stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, Powell met his wife Alma Johnson. They married in 1962 and went on to have two daughters and a son.
Powell’s overseas service began in Vietnam that same year, where he was sent by John F. Kennedy to train South Vietnamese forces.
He was injured soon after in 1963 when he stepped on a booby trapped stake while on patrol, earning a Purple Heart award.
Powell went back to Vietnam in 1968 for a second tour, where he famously escaped a helicopter crash and returned to the burning wreckage multiple times to rescue his fellow soldiers.
Pictured are the bride’s parents, Alma and Colin Powell, and Powell’s parents Luther and Maude
‘Get mad, then get over it’: Colin Powell’s ’13 Rules’ that he used to guide his personal and professional life
1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
2. Get mad, then get over it.
3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
4. It can be done!
5. Be careful what you choose.
6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
7. You can’t make someone else’s choices.
8. Check small things.
9. Share credit.
10. Remain calm. Be kind.
11. Have a vision.
12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
‘With complete disregard for his own safety and while injured himself, Major Powell returned several times to the smoldering aircraft which was in danger of bursting into flames,’ his subsequent Soldier’s Medal commendation read.
But his years in the military were also marked by a controversial probe into the devastating My Lai massacre. In 1968 US troops slaughtered as many as 500 Vietnamese civilians, which the military kept under wraps until 1970 to widespread condemnation.
In Vietnam Powell was assigned to investigate a letter from a soldier that allegedly backed reports of the massacre.
But upon looking into it Powell declared, ‘in direct refutation of this portrayal, relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.’
He was later accused of covering for the military at a time when the extent of atrocities committed against civilians by US troops wasn’t well known.
Upon his return from Vietnam, Powell worked toward a Masters of Business Administration at George Washington University.
From there Powell embarked on a career in government service when he earned a prestigious White House Fellowship under the Nixon administration in 1972.
After that he returned to active duty from 1973 to 1974 where he commanded a battalion during the Korean War.
From 1975 to 1976, Powell attended the National War College. In 1976, Powell was promoted to temporary colonel.
He served in the Democratic Carter administration as an executive assistant in the Energy and Defense Departments.
Powell worked his way up the military chain of command for years until Reagan appointed him his national security adviser in 1987.
During that time he continued to rise through the military ranks with a promotion to Brigadier General in 1979, major general in 1983, lieutenant general in 1986 and four-star general in 1989.
His Army service culminated in George H.W. Bush naming Powell as the first black person to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989, where he was confirmed unanimously.
Powell’s first big test came soon after he took office when the Gulf War began in 1990. As the nation’s highest-ranking military adviser he guided US forces through Operation Desert Storm.
Powell is shown in Vietnam in this 1963 file photo. That same year he was injured by a booby trap for which he earned a Purple Heart
Powell’s two tours in Vietnam took place in 1963 and 1968. He was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel in 1970, and to permanent major in 1972
During his second tour he famously escaped a helicopter crash and returned to the burning wreckage multiple times to rescue his fellow soldiers
Among the many awards Powell earned over the years was the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice
A formal group photograph of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. L to R: Gen. Carl Edward Vuono, USA; Gen.Larry D. Welch, USAF; Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA; Gen. Robert T. Herres, USAF; Adm. Carlisle A.H. Trost, USN and Gen. Alfred M. Gray, USMC. Photograph, Nov. 7, 1989
Dick Cheney swears Powell in as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George HW Bush
The Powell Doctrine: Eight questions a president must ask themselves before taking military action
- Is a vital national security interest threatened?
- Do we have a clear attainable objective?
- Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
- Have all other nonviolent policy means been fully exhausted?
- Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
- Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
- Is the action supported by the American people?
- Do we have genuine broad international support?
The US’s successful Middle East campaign had then received rare public praise for the government’s handling of a conflict and earned Powell a parade in his hometown of New York.
The military code he guided by was dubbed the ‘Powell Doctrine’ in the media.
Powell himself outlined it as a series of eight questions on the national security risks, objectives and public support of any proposed military action.
A president considering military action must answer all eight Powell Doctrine questions affirmatively before authorizing military action, under his philosophy.
He stayed on Joint Chiefs job for most of Bill Clinton’s first year in office but clashed with Clinton officials on a number of social and strategic military fronts.
Those included a hesitance to conduct an aggressive airstrike campaign in Bosnia and standing against the Clinton administration’s push to allow gay people to serve in the military.
After Clinton defeated Bush Sr. in 1992, Powell was widely seen as the favorite to run against the charismatic Democrat.
He opted not to run for office, however, telling CNN in 2007 that he ‘never found inside of me the internal passion that you’ve got to have to run for elected office.’
Powell retired from the military as a four-star general in 1993.
Still highly regarded across the country, Powell returned to the White House as George W. Bush’s Secretary of State where he was again confirmed unanimously in the Senate.
Another global conflict struck soon after Powell took on his new trailblazing role, in the form of the September 11 terror attacks.
The Bush administration looked to Powell, the most popular person in government at the time, to persuade the global community that attacking Iraq was necessary to US national security.
Powell had advised fellow officials at the time at any aggressive action should wait for support from allies and the creation of a long-term occupation plan, reportedly telling them: ‘You break it, you own it.’
But he was overruled.
Powell began his career as a senior White House official when Ronald Reagan named him as national security adviser (pictured during a press conference from the time period)
George HW Bush stands beside Powell, the youngest and first black person to be nominated to lead the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the podium outside of the White House
Powell finished his years in government service as George W. Bush’s Secretary of State
Powell later endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008 and 2012
His infamous 75-minute UN speech remained a blemish on his record, and his subsequent public regrets over the matter made him a target for Bush allies who chaffed at his comments on the Iraq War.
Along with expressing regret Powell also defended himself as a soldier carrying out his orders, albeit years later.
He told CNN in 2009 of presidential authority, ‘It’s just like in the military – you argue, you debate something, but once the president has made a decision, that becomes a decision for the Cabinet.’
During his tenure as Bush’s Secretary of State Powell clashed with far more hawkish officials like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
Powell biographer Karen DeYoung wrote in 2006 that Powell had ambitions to move the country forward in the new millennium but instead found himself ‘serving as a brake on rash presidential actions and misguided policies.’
Bush asked for his resignation in 2004 and in 2005 Powell was replaced with Condoleezza Rice.
In 2008 and 2012 Powell, a Republican, endorsed Barack Obama over John McCain for president.
He said on NBC that Obama was a ‘transformational figure’ ushering in a new era on the world stage.
He also expressed concern in 2008 that the Republican Party had ‘moved more to the right than I would like to see it.’
In 2016 he stood behind a new Democratic candidate, fellow former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Leaked emails from around the time showed Powell calling Donald Trump a ‘national disgrace.’
‘Trump is nuts. Everybody wants me to speak out, but I will pick the time and place for maximum effect like I did in 2008 and 2012. Right now, Trump is his worst own enemy,’ Powell had written.
He also spent much of his political life giving back to his hometown roots, founding City College of New York’s Colin L. Powell Center for Leadership and Service in 1997.
The City University of New York system established the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership in 2013 in his honor.
Powell is survived by his wife Alma, and their three children Michael, Linda and Annemarie.
‘General 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,’ the Powell family wrote on Facebook Monday.