WASHINGTON — Colin Powell, the trailblazing military commander and first Black secretary of state, died Monday of COVID-19 related complications.
Powell, 84, was born in New York City and joined the Army after graduating from the City University of New York. He died Monday at Walter Reed National Medical Center. His family said he was fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” Powell’s family said in its statement.
Secretary of State in Iraq War
He rose through the ranks of the armed forces in a decades-long career that culminated in his service first as national security adviser to then-President Ronald Reagan and as the 12th chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the highest-ranking military appointment in the Defense Department.
Powell went on to serve as secretary of state under former President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, overseeing U.S. diplomacy in the aftermath of the Sep. 11, 2001, terror attacks and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
His reputation took a hit, though, in 2003 when Powell told the United Nations Security Council that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction to justify war in Iraq, citing faulty information.
Career of firsts
Powell was a trailblazer in his public service career, serving as the first Black person to become national security advisor, chairman of the chiefs of staff and secretary of state, under President George W. Bush.
Bush lamented Powell’s passing and praised his career.
“He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam,” Bush said in a prepared statement on Monday. “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.”
In 2008, Powell, who previously served in Republican administrations, endorsed Barack Obama for president ahead of his historic victory. Powell later became disenchanted with the Republican Party under former President Donald Trump.
In 2019, he argued the party needed to “get a grip” of itself and change course. He said last year he would vote for Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
Powell is survived by three children, two grandchildren and his wife, Alma.
Contributing: The Associated Press