Gen. Colin Powell, the nation’s first black secretary of state, died Monday from COVID-19-related complications and a fight with cancer.
The retired four-star general was 84.
“He was fully vaccinated,” the Powell family posted on Facebook. “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,” the family said in its post.
While Gen. Powell was vaccinated, he had multiple myeloma, a white blood cell cancer. Cancer and the drugs that treat cancer can suppress the immune system.
Gen. Powell and his wife, Alma, were tested for COVID-19 last week and tested positive, according to NBC News.
Gen. Powell became secretary of state in 2003 during the Bush administration.
“Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell,” former President George W. Bush said in a statement Monday. “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 National Security Adviser under President Reagan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under my father and President Clinton, and Secretary of State during my Administration,” President Bush said in a statement that appeared at bushcenter.org, the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s website. “He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice.
“He was highly respected at home and abroad,” President Bush said. “And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”
In another statement Monday, President Joe Biden praised Gen. Powell for embodying “the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat.
“He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all,” President Biden said.
Gen. Powell was born in 1937 in New York City to Jamaican immigrants. At age 16, he enrolled in New York’s City College and joined the Army ROTC.
He served two combat tours in Vietnam. In 1989, during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, Gen. Powell became the first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the youngest chair at age 52. He served in the role during the Gulf War in 1991.
Later, as secretary of state, Gen. Powell supported the second Iraq war in 2003 on the basis of assertions that Saddam Hussein’s government had weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons weren’t found, and Gen. Powell later regretted supporting the war on that basis.
Known throughout his life as a moderate Republican, Gen. Powell later supported Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden in their successful campaigns.
Gen. Powell is survived by three children, two grandchildren and his wife, Alma.