Colin Powell, the former United States secretary of state and the first Black person in the country’s history to fill the position, has died due to complications from COVID-19, his family has said.
Powell, a four-star general who last held public office in 2005, died on Monday, the family said in a statement on Facebook. He was 84.
“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,” the Powell family said.
Known as a moderate and pragmatist, Powell was instrumental in shaping the foreign policy of Republican presidential administrations for decades. He was in top posts during the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 1989 US invasion of Panama, the 1991 Gulf War, the September 11 attacks, and the resulting US invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.
He served as national security adviser to former President Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1989 and was the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former Republican President George HW Bush and former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, from 1989 to 1993.
When he was confirmed as former President George W Bush’s secretary of state in 2001, he became the first Black person in US history to fill that role.
At the time, he also became the highest-ranking Black official in US history, later equalled by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and surpassed by former President Barack Obama.
Powell was the son of Jamaican immigrants and grew up in the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City. He attended City College of New York and earned an officer’s commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in 1958.