Colin Powell, the First Black US Secretary of State, Dies at 84

Colin Powell, the first Black secretary of state in the US, died from complications from COVID-19 amidst a battle with cancer.

Powell’s family made the news public through a Facebook post.

“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,” wrote the Powell family, adding that he was fully vaccinated.

The 84-year-old was battling cancer, and a source familiar with Powell said he had multiple myeloma which suppresses the body’s immune system, putting him at greater risk for the virus even if he was vaccinated.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather, and a great American,” the family said.

Powell was well known for his achievements. After fulfilling combat duty in Vietnam, he went on to become the first Black national security adviser during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. He later became the first and youngest African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs 0f Staff during George H.W. Bush’s presidency.

Powell was highly respected amongst his peer, and for a time in the mid-90s, he was thought to be a top contender to become the first Black President of the US.

Bush, who worked alongside Powell for many years, said on Monday that Powell was “a great public servant” and that 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.”

Powell was sworn in as Bush’s secretary of state in 2001 and became the highest-ranking Black public official to date in the US.

“I think it shows to the world what is possible in this country. It shows to the world that: Follow our model, and over a period of time from our beginning if you believe in the values that espouse, you can see things as miraculous as me sitting before you to receive your approval,” said Powell about his nomination during his Senate confirmation hearing in 2001.

Powell’s death is not only being mourned by his family but also former and current leaders who worked with him.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said, “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 always made time for me and I could always go to him with tough issues. He always had great counsel. We will certainly miss him,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, adding that he “lost a tremendous personal friend and mentor.”

Powell is survived by his wife, Alma Vivian (Johnson) Powell, whom he married in 1962, and three children.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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