Tributes have poured in for former United States (US) Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who died on Monday of COVID-19 complications at the age of 84.
The Republican politician was a former top military officer who rose to become the first African-American Secretary of State in 2000 under George W. Bush administration.
“General Colin L. Powell, former US Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away this morning due to complications from COVID- 19,” the Powell family announced on Facebook.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” they said, noting he was fully vaccinated.
A source familiar with the matter said Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body’s immune response. Even if fully vaccinated against COVID-19, those who are immune compromised are at greater risk from the virus.
Powell’s death was met with an outpouring of grief from former and current leaders, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served alongside Powell under Bush.
“I’m deeply saddened to learn that America has lost a leader and statesman. General Powell had a remarkably distinguished career, and I was fortunate to work with him,” Cheney said in a statement, adding that Powell was a “trailblazer and role model.”
Also, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Powell’s predecessor at the department, described him as “a wise and principled man, a loyal friend, and one of the kindest people I have ever met.
“Although we grew up in different contexts, we bonded over our family’s immigrant stories, our deep love of America, and our belief in the importance of public service,” she said in a statement.
Condoleezza Rice, who succeeded Powell at the State following his retirement in 2005, said on Monday that he “was a trusted colleague and a dear friend through some very challenging times,” adding in her own statement that “much of his legacy will live on in the countless number of young lives he touched.”
And Antony Blinken, the current officeholder, said Monday that Powell “gave the State Department the very best of his leadership, his experience, his patriotism.”
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said in Powell he had “lost a tremendous personal friend and mentor.”
“He always made time for me and I could always go to him with tough issues. He always had great counsel. We will certainly miss him,” said Austin, who himself made history earlier this year as the first black defence secretary.
Powell was born on April 5, 1937, in Harlem, New York, to Jamaican immigrants. After growing up in the South Bronx, Powell attended the City College of New York, where he participated in ROTC, leading the precision drill team and attaining the top rank offered by the corps, cadet colonel.
He entered the US Army after graduating in 1958, and later served two tours in South Vietnam during the 1960s, where he was wounded twice, including during a helicopter crash in which he rescued two soldiers.
He stayed in the Army after returning home, attending the National War College and rising in leadership. He was promoted to brigadier-general in 1979, appointed as Reagan’s final national security adviser in 1987 and was tapped by the elder Bush in 1989 to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Powell’s tenure in the Bush’s administration was marked by his involvement in some of the most notable American military actions of the late 20th Century, including the 1989 Panama operation, the 1991 Gulf War and the US humanitarian intervention in Somalia, though he retired from the Army days before the disastrous Battle of Mogadishu.