Washington — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell died Monday morning due to complications from COVID-19, his family announced. He was 84.
Powell, the first Black secretary of state and the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was fully vaccinated, his family said in a post on his Facebook page.
“We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment,” the Powell family wrote. “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”
Powell had battled various other ailments, including Parkinson’s. His wife, Alma, also had a breakthrough case of COVID-19, but responded to treatment.
Born April 5, 1937, in Harlem, New York, to Jamaican immigrants, Powell was a ground-breaking figure in Washington and garnered respect from both sides of the aisle.
Powell joined the U.S. Army after graduating from college in 1958. Across his 35-year military career, he served two tours in Vietnam and was stationed in West Germany and South Korea.
He would go on to serve in top roles under four presidents, first as national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and then as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton, the first African-American to hold the role. Powell then was tapped by President George W. Bush as secretary of state.
Powell led the State Department during the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and favored taking military action against al Qaeda. He also supported the invasion of Iraq and appeared before the United Nations to present evidence that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The chief justification for the war in Iraq, however, rested on bad intelligence.
Powell would go on to call his 2003 speech before the United Nations describing the weapons program in Iraq a “blot” on his record.
In a statement Monday, Mr. Bush praised Powell as a “great public servant” whose counsel and experience was relied upon by presidents of both parties, and said he and former first lady Laura Bush are “deeply saddened” by his death.
“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,” Mr. Bush said. “Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”
David Martin contributed to this report. This is a developing story and will be updated.