84-year-old Colin Powell, the first African-American secretary of state and senior military official in the United States, passed away on Monday from COVID-19-related complications. According to a Facebook post from his family, he had all of his vaccinations up to date.
His family described him as a “wonderful and loving husband, father, grandpa, and a terrific American.
Powell had a long and distinguished career as a prominent Black American personality. In three Republican presidents’ administrations, he rose to the pinnacle of the military, just as it was recovering its strength after the trauma of the Vietnam War. He retired from the military in 1993.
Powell, a Vietnam War veteran, was President Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor from 1987 until 1989. During the 1991 Gulf War, he served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a four-star Army general under President George H.W. Bush and led U.S.-led forces in the expulsion of Iraqi soldiers from Kuwait.
Powell, a pragmatist and a moderate Republican, contemplated running for president in 1996 but decided against it when his wife Alma expressed concerns about his safety. He defied his party in 2008 by endorsing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, the country’s first black president.
Powell will be remembered for his contentious speech to the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003, in which he argued for President George W. Bush that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein posed an immediate threat to the world because of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons stockpiles.
Powell subsequently acknowledged that his speech was “a stain” on his record because of the errors and distorted information supplied by others in the Bush administration.