Former Secretary of State Colin Powell dies of COVID-19 complications aged 84

Colin powell
Colin Powell. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Colin Powell died on Monday morning, his family said. He was 84.
  • His family cited complications from COVID-19, but said he was fully vaccinated.
  • He was the first African American secretary of state. He served under President George W. Bush.

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell died of COVID-19 complications on Monday morning, his family said in a Facebook post. He was 84.

Powell was fully vaccinated and had received treatment from the Walter Reed National Medical Center, the family said.

Powell served as secretary of state from 2001 to 2005, under President George W. Bush. He was the first African American to hold the position.

He also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993, under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” Powell’s family said Monday.

Being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 dramatically reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from the disease, although rare severe breakthrough cases can still happen. Powell’s wife Alma also caught a breakthrough case of COVID-19 but recovered, CBS News reported.

Powell, who was born to Jamaican immigrant parents in New York City in 1937, first joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in college and went on to lead a long and distinguished career spanning over three decades in the US Army.

Under President Ronald Reagan, Powell was the first Black national security advisor. And under President George H.W. Bush, he became the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As Bush’s first secretary of state, he was a major advocate for the US’ invasion of Iraq and a proponent of the notion that invasion was justified because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He later called it a “blot” on his record after the intelligence he pushed was found to be faulty.

In a Monday statement, Bush said he was “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.

“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,” Bush said. “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.”

Powell declared himself a Republican in the 1990s once his military service had ended, but later in life helped to elect Democrats, including Barack Obama.

He was also repeatedly touted as a possible presidential candidate, but never ran.

He also voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 over Republican Donald Trump, who he called a “national disgrace and an international pariah.”