Colin Powell, the first black secretary of state, died from COVID-19 complications at 84. While Powell was fully vaccinated, he had underlying health conditions. He had multiple myeloma, which is a cancer of plasma cells. This form of cancer suppresses the body’s immune response, making it more difficult to fight off viruses. Powell also suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Even with full vaccination, individuals with compromised immune systems have a greater risk of death from the virus. His family stated that they lost a “remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.” His family also thanked the staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center, the hospital that treated Powell.
General Colin Powell, remembered as a remarkable member of George W. Bush’s administration, was responsible for shaping U.S. National Security. Powell had a long history in the administration, serving in George W. Bush’s Cabinet from 2001 to 2005, during the years that followed the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Powell was involved in the push for the U.N. to look into Saddam Hussein’s involvement with weapons of mass destruction. Against his advice, the administration moved toward’s military action again Iraq. Powell looked back on this time in his career as a “blot” on his record.
Most of Powell’s time involved the secretary of state focused on Afghanistan and Iraq. He centralized his efforts on other areas of U.S. foreign policy, including the May 2002 signing of the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions. Powell pushed for North Korea and Iran to stop their nuclear weapons initiatives, improved the relationships with Russia and China, and managed the United State’s removal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Unrelated to national security, Powell also fought for the Bush Administration to increase the funding to the fight against AIDS.
Powell graduated from Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at the top of his class. He earned the cadet colonel ranking. After graduation, Powell served in the military for 35 years. He began as a second lieutenant and was among the 16,000 military advisors sent to South Vietnam during Kennedy’s administration. Powell earned the honors of Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Solider’s Medal. He received 11 military decorations during his entire time in the military.
As a trailblazer, Powell graduated with an MBA from George Washington University, entering into politics during the Nixon administration and working in the White House Office of Management and Budget. After his political start, he returned to the military. During Jimmy Carter’s administration, Powell earned the role of assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense.
Powell served under Ronald Regan from 1987 to 1989 as the National Security Advisor. In 1989, he earned his role as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Under President George W. Bush, Powell was the youngest to hold this position and the first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 1993, Powell founded an organization to help children at risk. He then earned the secretary of state position in December of 2000.
Later in his political career, Powell used his political background to help Democrats get elected to the White House, including Barack Obama. Powell gave his endorsement for Obama in the final weeks of the 2008 campaign.
Former President George W. Bush made a statement about Powell’s death, referring to Powell as a “family man and a friend.” Both he and Vice President Cheney stated that they were “deeply saddened” by the loss of Powell. Cheney commented on Powell’s extraordinary career and how fortunate he was to have worked with Powell. Secretary of State Antony Blinken remembered Powell as “simply and completely a leader.”
Powell left behind his wife, Alma, and their three children, Michael, Linda, and Annemarie.