Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell passed away at the age of 84 on Monday. According to a family statement, Powell’s death was a result of complications of a COVID-19 infection. Though he had been vaccinated against the virus, he had additional vulnerabilities due to his age and a history of fighting multiple myeloma—a very serious form of cancer—which likely compromised his immune system.
General Colin Powell was named the first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff for the United States. He served under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Powell oversaw U.S. invasions of both Panama and Kuwait. He served as Secretary of State under former President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005.
In a 2003 presentation before the United Nations Security Council, Powell spoke in support of the U.S. war in Iraq. He cited intelligence information at that time that said that Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s president, had access to weapons of mass destruction. Later, it appeared that the intelligence he referred to was faulty. Such weapons were never found in Iraq.
Powell was a high-ranking four-star U.S. Army general. He was highly decorated for his military service, which included serving two terms during the Vietnam War. He was wounded in Vietnam and received the Purple Heart, among other commendations including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He served as a national security advisor under President Ronald Reagan and continued top-level service with presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Prior to the 1996 U.S. presidential election, many Republicans rallied behind Powell in hopes that he would seek the presidential nomination. After consideration, Powell declined and did not run for the highest office.
In a statement, former President George W. Bush said he and former First Lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death. He continued to say, “He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”
Powell is survived by his wife Alma and their three adult children.
(In this September 25, 1991, photo, General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks on Capitol Hill at a House Armed Services subcommittee meeting in Washington, D.C. AP/Marcy Nighswander)