Former Secretary of State and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell died on Monday due to complications from COVID-19, his family said. He was 84. Powell’s family announced his death in a post to Facebook. Powell, 84, was fully vaccinated from Covid-19, his family said, and had been treated at Walter Reed National Medical Center. “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family said. Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer of a type of white blood cell. It’s unclear what complications he experienced from Covid-19 or when he tested positive for the disease.

Powell was born in 1937 in Harlem, New York, to immigrants from Jamaica and grew up in the South Bronx, going on to get a bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York. He became the first Black secretary of state under President George W. Bush.  After rising through the military ranks, Powell became a four-star general and then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He had served as U.S. national security adviser and deputy national security adviser for President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Powell served twice in Vietnam — during the first tour, he was wounded in action and on the second tour, he received the Soldier’s Medal for rescuing several men from a burning helicopter..

Bush said in a statement on Monday that he and former first lady Laura Bush were deeply saddened by Powell’s death, adding: “He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam. Many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience. 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.” Bush added that he and his wife sent Powell’s widow, Alma, and their three children “our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”

President Joe Biden ordered American flags at the White House lowered to half-staff in Powell’s honor, calling him a “patriot of unmatched honor and dignity.”  Biden said in a statement:  “He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect. Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else — in uniform and out — and it earned him the universal respect of the American people.” Despite serving Republican presidents, Powell broke with his party on several occasions in recent years, including when he endorsed Democratic Sen. Barack Obama for president in 2008 over Republican Sen. John McCain. Powell endorsed Obama again in 2012 over the GOP’s nominee that year, Mitt Romney, and later became a vocal critic of President Donald Trump.

Colin Powell is survived by his wife, Alma Powell, 83, and their three children.

Editorial credit: Debby Wong /

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