WASHINGTON – Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, the first black secretary of state, died of complications from Covid-19 on Monday, his family said in a statement on Facebook.
Powell, 84, has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, his family said. He was treated at Walter Reed National Medical Center.
“General Colin L. Powell, former US Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died this morning from complications related to Covid 19. He was fully vaccinated,” the family said in the report. communicated. “We would like to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their thoughtful treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and great American. “
Powell also battled multiple myeloma, a cancer of a type of white blood cell. It is not known what complications he suffered from Covid-19 or when he tested positive for the disease. The family also did not say when he was fully immunized or if he received a booster.
Powell became the first black person to serve as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. In this role as the country’s chief diplomat, Powell delivered a famous speech to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 in which he argued for the invasion of Iraq and said there was reports that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction. US troops launched an invasion the following month. The evidence he presented about Iraq having biological weapons was later found to be incorrect. Powell resigned from the administration shortly after Bush’s re-election in 2004.
Bush said in a statement Monday that he and former first lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.
“He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier in Vietnam,” Bush said. “Many presidents have relied on the advice and experience of General Powell. He was such a favorite of presidents that he won the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice. He was well respected at home and abroad. And most importantly, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I extend our deepest condolences to Alma and their children as they remember the life of a great man. “
Powell spent his career rising through the military ranks, eventually becoming a four-star general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George HW Bush. He had served as US National Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Powell served twice in Vietnam – on the first tour he was wounded in combat and on the second toured, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for rescuing several men from a burning helicopter.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin praised Powell’s life of national service and counsel in brief remarks to reporters Monday morning.
“The world has lost one of the greatest leaders we have ever seen,” Austin said. “Alma lost a great husband, and the family lost a great father, and I lost a great personal friend and mentor. He has been my mentor for several years. He always took time for me and I could always reach out to him with difficult issues. He always had good advice. He will certainly be missed. I feel like I have a hole in my heart just hearing this. ”
Although he served many Republican presidents, Powell said a few days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that he could no longer call himself a Republican.
“I’m not a guy for nothing right now,” he said in an interview on CNN. “I am just a citizen who voted Republican, voted Democrat throughout my career. And right now I’m just looking at my country and I don’t care about the holidays. “
Powell was a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump. In 2016, it was revealed in leaked emails that Powell called the then GOP presidential candidate a “national disgrace.” In June 2020, Powell and other retired military leaders lambasted Trump for threatening to use military force against protesters. Powell said in an interview on CNN that Trump was “straying” from the Constitution and said he was a habitual liar.
“We have a Constitution. We must follow this Constitution. And the president has walked away from it, ”said Powell, who made it clear that, as in 2016, he would not vote for Trump for president and instead planned to vote for Joe Biden.
Powell was born in 1937 in Harlem, New York, to Jamaican immigrants and raised in the South Bronx, before earning a bachelor’s degree from City College in New York.
He is survived by his wife Alma Powell, 83 years old, with whom he had three children.