Updated 1:44 PM ET, Mon October 18, 2021
Colin Powell, a trailblazing military leader who went on to become the United States’ first Black secretary of state, has died at the age of 84.
Powell died from complications from Covid-19, his family said on Facebook, noting he was fully vaccinated. Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body’s immune response, as well as Parkinson’s disease, Peggy Cifrino, Powell’s longtime chief of staff, confirmed to CNN.
Powell’s leadership in several Republican administrations helped shape American foreign policy in the last years of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st. He was the country’s first Black national security adviser when he served at the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and he was the youngest chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush.
Powell’s popularity soared during the 1991 Gulf War, when he became one of the administration’s most trusted spokesmen. He was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in March 1991 “in recognition of his exemplary performance in planning and coordinating” the US response to Iraq’s invasion.
With a prominent national profile, Powell was often floated as a potential presidential candidate. But he declined, citing a lack of “passion” for electoral politics.
He became George W. Bush’s first Cabinet selection, and as Bush’s top diplomat, he was tasked with building international support for the War on Terror. In 2003, he delivered a speech before the United Nations in which he presented evidence that the US intelligence community said proved Iraq had misled inspectors and hid weapons of mass destruction. He later called his UN speech a “blot” that will forever be on his record.
After leaving the Bush administration, Powell returned to private life. His later years saw him supporting Democratic presidential candidates and harshly criticizing top Republican leaders.
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