Colin Powell has passed away due to complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed in a statement on Monday (Oct. 18). Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, was 84 years old.
“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.
Powell’s family said he was fully vaccinated against the disease and had been receiving medical treatment at Washington D.C.’s Walter Reed National Medical Center. According to NBC News, he was also diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that inhibits the body’s ability to fight infections.
“We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment,” the statement continued. “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”
Powell had a trailblazing career in both politics and the military, where he served as a solider for 35 years and rose to the rank of four-star general. He became commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command in 1989 and then the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he oversaw the invasion of Panama, Operation Desert Storm and more.
He became the first Black national security adviser under Ronald Reagan’s presidency and was the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Former President George H. W. Bush.
In a statement on Monday, George W. Bush, who was president when Powell served as secretary of state, said he was “a great public servant.”
“He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice,” he added. “He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”
Powell was the 65th U.S. secretary of state under Bush, making him the highest-ranking Black public official at the time and fourth in line for presidential succession. However, his reputation became stained after using faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq War and he resigned after Bush was reelected in 2004.
“I think it shows to the world what is possible in this country,” Powell said of his historic Senate confirmation hearing. “It shows to the world that: Follow our model, and over a period of time from our beginning, if you believe in the values that espouse, you can see things as miraculous as me sitting before you to receive your approval.”
Powell later left the Republican Party and went on to use his political capital to advocate for Democrats in the White House, including supporting Barack Obama’s successful presidential bid in 2008. He is survived by his wife Alma Vivian Powell and their three children.