Colin Luther Powell died at the age of 84 due to COVID-19 complications, his family announced in a statement online.
A New York native, Powell served in the Army for more than 30 years. He joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) while attending the City College of New York, where he received a Bachelor of Science in 1958. After graduating, he served in Vietnam in 1962–63 and 1968–69.
In 1972, Powell took on his first political position as a White House fellow and eventually worked as an assistant to the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, Frank Carlucci.
Powell became a four-star general in April of 1989. He served as the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff — the most senior military officer in the U.S. Armed Forces — from 1989 to 1993. He oversaw Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq.
Powell was Secretary of State under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He retired in 2004, shortly before Bush’s re-election.
“Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell,” Bush said in a statement on Monday, calling Powell “a great public servant.”
“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.”
Despite much public speculation in 1996, Powell never ran for President. The Republican is to date the highest-ranking black public official in national history.
Powell published two books on his life: an autobiography titled “My American Journey” in 1995 and “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership” in 2012.
In their statement on Facebook, his family described Powell as a “remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”
They also thanked the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center, where Powell had been treated. Powell had previously been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The child of Jamaican immigrants, Powell was raised in Harlem and the South Bronx. He is survived by his wife Alma, son Michael, and daughters Linda and Annemarie.