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Colin Powell, former US secretary of state, dies of COVID-19

Colin Powell
Posted at 5:08 AM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-18 12:43:01-04

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell died Monday from complications of COVID-19, his family said in a statement. 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. He was fully vaccinated," the family said in a statement. "We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American."

While Powell was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, CNN and CNBC report that he was immunocompromised and still at an increased risk for a severe infection. Powell reportedly suffered from multiple myeloma — a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body's immune response.

Powell was born in 1937 in New York City. He joined the Army at a young age, eventually rising to the rank of general.

After serving in the Vietnam War as a young man, Powell held several top military and defense positions in the federal government. He rose through the ranks in the national security adviser's office and served in the role under President Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1989. He later served as the chairman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

As chairman, Powell oversaw the war in the Persian Gulf and Operation Desert Storm.

But Powell is best known for serving as secretary of state under President George W. Bush during Bush's first term. Powell served as America's top diplomat during the Sept. 11 terror attacks and amid the start of the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the leadup to the war in Iraq, Powell appeared in front of the United Nations to lay out the Bush administration's case for initiating the conflict. While he told the UN that he was concerned about Iraq's weapons program, his testimony included faulty intelligence. He later admitted that his testimony to the UN was a "blot" on his record.

Powell was the first Black man to serve as secretary of state. In Bush's second term, he would relinquish his post to Condoleezza Rice, a Black woman.

Bush released the following statement regarding Powell's passing:

"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."

Though Powell was a Republican throughout his career, he broke with the party in recent years. He told media outlets in 2016 that he voted for Hillary Clinton instead of Republican nominee Donald Trump, and he endorsed Joe Biden over Trump before the 2020 presidential election.

Biden released a statement Monday on Powell's passing, calling him a "dear friend" and a "patriot of unmatched honor and dignity."

"Above all, Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times. He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business—something I learned firsthand on the race track when I was Vice President. And I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and for our shared battle for the soul of the nation. I will miss being able to call on his wisdom in the future," Biden's statement said in part.