(NEXSTAR) – Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has died of complications from COVID-19, his family said in a statement shared on Facebook Monday. He was 84 years old.
According to Powell’s family, he was fully vaccinated and receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Medical Center.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and great American,” the family wrote in the statement.
“General Colin L. Powell, former US Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died this morning from complications related to Covid 19. He was fully vaccinated. We would like to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their thoughtful treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and great American. “
– The Powell family
Powell was the first African American to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later U.S. Secretary of State, for which he was unanimously confirmed in 2001.
As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he oversaw the US invasion of Panama and later the US invasion of Kuwait to overthrow the Iraqi army in 1991.
Powell was the first U.S. official to publicly deny responsibility for the September 11 terrorist attacks on Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network and made a whirlwind trip to Pakistan in October 2001 to demand that the then Pakistani president , Pervez Musharraf, cooperates with the United States. by attacking the group based in Afghanistan, which was also present in Pakistan, where bin Laden was later killed.
He then presented a compelling case to the UN Security Council in 2003 in favor of US military action against Iraq, claiming that Saddam Hussein was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. The war was fought, Saddam was overthrown and killed, Iraq was destabilized, but no such weapon was found and his reputation suffered a painful setback.
Powell has always defended his support for the Iraq war. He cited misinformation claiming that Hussein secretly hid weapons of mass destruction. He told the UN that Iraq’s claims that he had not represented “a network of lies”.
A longtime Republican, Powell was of little use to former President Donald Trump, endorsing Hillary Clinton in 2016 and speaking in favor of Joe Biden at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. He left the Republican Party after the January 6 assault on the United States Capitol.
Former President George W. Bush said he and former first lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.
“He was a great public servant” and “widely respected at home and abroad,” Bush said. “And most importantly, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I extend our deepest condolences to Alma and their children as they remember the life of a great man.
Powell went from a childhood in a failing New York neighborhood to becoming the country’s chief diplomatic officer. “Mine is the story of an early promising black child from an immigrant family of limited means who grew up in the South Bronx,” he wrote in his 1995 autobiography “My American Journey”.
At City College, Powell discovered the ROTC. When he put on his first uniform, “I liked what I saw,” he wrote.
He joined the military and in 1962 was one of more than 16,000 “advisers” sent to South Vietnam by President John F. Kennedy. A series of promotions led to the Pentagon and an assignment as military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who became his unofficial godfather. He later became commander of the 5th Army Corps in Germany and later served as National Security Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.
Powell’s appearances at the United Nations as Secretary of State, including his address on Iraq, were often accompanied by fond memories of his childhood in the city, where he grew up as a child of Jamaican immigrants. who got one of his first jobs at Pepsi-Cola. bottling plant directly across the East River from the UN headquarters.
A fan of calypso music, Powell has come under criticism from song legend Harry Belafonte, among others, who compared Powell to a “domestic slave” for accepting the decision to invade Iraq. Powell declined to engage in a public feud with Belafonte, but made it known that he was not a fan and much preferred the Trinidadian calypso star the “Mighty Sparrow”.
Powell argued, in an interview with The Associated Press in 2012, that overall the United States has been successful in Iraq.
“I think we’ve had a lot of success,” said Powell. “The terrible Iraqi dictator is gone.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.