On Monday, the family of General Colin Powell, the first black Secretary of State who served under three Republican presidents before endorsing former President Barack Obama twice, announced the 84-year-old former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had died “due to complications from Covid 19.”
The Powell family stated on Facebook, “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. He was fully vaccinated. We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather, and a great American.”
According to CNN, which spoke to a source familiar with the matter, Powell had multiple myeloma, a condition that suppresses the immune response.
Powell was born in Harlem in 1937, the son of Jamaican immigrants. He served in Vietnam as an advisor to the South Vietnamese Army between 1962 and 1963, returning in 1968 as assistant chief of staff of operations for the 23rd Infantry Division. He later became senior military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger during the Reagan Administration. In 1987, he served as United States Deputy National Security Advisor, then Reagan’s last National Security Advisor.
He was promoted to four-star general Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He believed that if the nation were going to war, it should use overwhelming force in order to minimize casualties, which was dubbed the “Powell Doctrine.” He declared himself a Republican in the mid-1990’s and later was selected by former President George W. Bush as Secretary of State.
Powell was urged by the Bush White House to help convince other nations to join in the invasion of Iraq, which he did successfully, but later regretted it, resigning soon after Bush’s reelection in 2004. Yet in 2008 he told CNN, “My role has been very, very straightforward. I wanted to avoid a war. The president [Bush] agreed with me. We tried to do that. We couldn’t get it through the U.N. and when the president made the decision, I supported that decision. And I’ve never blinked from that. I’ve never said I didn’t support a decision to go to war.”
Although Powell donated to the presidential campaign of Senator John McCain in 2008, eh endorsed Barack Obama, saying he did not believe that Sarah Palin was “ready to be president of the United States,” but Joe Biden “is ready to be president on day one.”
After Powell endorsed Obama, the National Review Editorial Board wrote of Powell’s comments about Palin, “That is a reasonable point of view. But is it really a very strong reason to prefer Obama to McCain? There are, after all, readiness questions about Obama as well, questions that Powell answers merely by invoking Obama’s ‘intellectual vigor’: an element of readiness rather than the thing itself.”
In September 2010, Powell stated on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “The president also has to … shift the way in which he has been doing things. The American people feel that too many programs have come down. There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it. … He has lost some of the ability to connect that he had during the campaign. And it is not just me picking on the president. It’s reflected in the polling. Some of the anxiety and anger that you see out there, I think, comes from a belief on the part of the American people — whether it’s correct or incorrect, and the White House would say it’s incorrect — that … his singular focus should be on employment.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly cited Powell talking about the president on NBC’s “Meet the Press” in 2020. That discussion occurred in 2010.