First Black Secretary of State Colin Powell Dies From COVID Complications

In Summary

Gen. Colin Powell died on Monday due to complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that weakens the immune system. 

Former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell died on Monday due to complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed. He was 84.    

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” his family wrote on Facebook.     

His family said he was being treated for COVID-19 at Walter Reed National Medical Center. Powell was fully vaccinated.

According to NBC News, Powell was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that weakens the immune system. In 2003, he underwent treatment for prostate cancer.   

The son of Jamaican parents, Powell was born in Harlem on April 5, 1937. He was considered to be a professional soldier in the military, ultimately leading him to become a four-star general.   

Powell routinely made history. Following his two tours in Vietnam while in the army, he became the first Black national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan’s administration, and the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush, according to CNN.    

In 2001, under President George W. Bush, Powell became the first Black U.S. secretary of state, making him the highest-ranking Black public official in the country’s history at the time.   

During his Senate confirmation, he said that his nomination “shows to the world what is possible in this country,” as reported by CNN.   

“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,” he continued.   

In a statement, former President Bush said he was “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death:   

Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell. He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam. 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. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.

Under the second Bush administration, Powell’s time as secretary of state was met with controversy over publicly advocating for the war in Iraq.   

RELATED: Pres. Obama, Bush, Clinton Remember Gen. Colin Powell

In a speech to the United Nations in 2003, Powell falsely claimed the U.S. had evidence that the then-president of Iraq Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which U.N. inspectors couldn’t find.   

According to CNN, his public push to have the U.S. go into Iraq damaged Powell’s credibility among the public. Former Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly told Powell before his speech to the U.N., “You’ve got high poll ratings; you can afford to lose a few points.”  

Powell said he felt “terrible” about the claims he made in his speech, saying it hurt his reputation.  

“It’s a blot. I’m the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It’s painful now,” he told ABC News in 2006.   

Powell is survived by his wife Alma Vivian Powell and his three kids, Michael Powell, Linda Powell and Annmarie Powell.   

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