The first Black US secretary of state whose leadership in several Republican administrations helped shape American foreign policy in the last years of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st has died from complications from Covid-19, his family said on Facebook. He was 84.” 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,” the Powell family wrote on Facebook, noting he was fully vaccinated. Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body’s immune response, as well as Parkinson’s, Peggy Cifrino, Powell’s longtime chief of staff, confirmed. Even if fully vaccinated against Covid-19, those who are immunocompromised are at greater risk from the virus.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family said.
Powell was a distinguished and trailblazing professional soldier whose career took him from combat duty in Vietnam to becoming the first Black national security adviser during the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush. His national popularity soared in the aftermath of the US-led coalition victory during the Gulf War, and for a time in the mid-90s, he was considered a leading contender to become the first Black President of the United States. But his reputation would be forever stained when, as George W. Bush’s first secretary of state, he pushed faulty intelligence before the United Nations to advocate for the Iraq War, which he would later call a “blot” on his record. Bush said in a statement Monday that Powell was “a great public servant” who 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.”
Leaders mourn a ‘trailblazer and role model’
Powell’s death was met with an outpouring of grief from former and current leaders, including President Joe Biden who described Powell as a “dear friend” and a dedicated public servant who broke barriers.”Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all. Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that the military might alone be not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity. From his front-seat view of history, advising presidents, and shaping our nation’s policies, Colin led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong. Time and again, he put country before self, before the party, before all else — in uniform and out — and it earned him the universal respect of the American people,” Biden said. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served alongside Powell under Bush said he was “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,” Cheney said in a statement, adding that Powell was a “trailblazer and role model.” Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Powell’s predecessor at the department, remembered him on Monday as “a wise and principled man, a loyal friend, and one of the kindest people I have ever met.””Although we grew up in different contexts, we bonded over our family’s immigrant stories, our deep love of America, and our belief in the importance of public service,” she said in a statement. Condoleezza Rice, who succeeded Powell at State following his retirement in 2005, said on Monday that he “was a trusted colleague and a dear friend through some very challenging times,” adding in her own statement that “much of his legacy will live on in the countless number of young lives he touched.”