By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
Colin Powell, 84, the first African American Secretary of State whose leadership in several Republican administrations shaped American foreign policy died on October 18.
According to a posting on his Family’s Facebook page, he passed away due to complications from COVID-19 although he was fully vaccinated.
Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body’s immune response, as well as Parkinson’s Disease, Peggy Cifrino, Powell’s longtime chief of staff, confirmed to the media.
Even if fully vaccinated against COVID-19, those who are immunocompromised are at greater risk from the virus.
“I was blessed to meet General Colin L. Powell twice in my lifetime,” recalled retired Rev. Gary McCollum of Virginia Beach. McCollum, a retired Army officer, is an
associate pastor at the Historic First Baptist Church of Norfolk on Bute Street.
“I also had the opportunity to meet his beautiful bride, Alma, as well as their son Michael,” McCollum continued. “Michael and I both served a few years as Army officers and eventually ended up in the cable telecom industry. On both occasions, I found General Powell to be inspiring and bigger than life.”
“But at the same time, he was warm and approachable. He was well-read and incredibly smart yet at the same time he was inquisitive and interested in what I thought about issues facing our nation. General Powell was a leader without peers.”
He continued, “I went to Airborne and Ranger School in 1982 as a newly commissioned Army Officer because I wanted to be like General Powell. He loved soldiers and he loved our country, despite its faults. He had 13 rules he lived by. My favorite was the last one: Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”
Congresswoman Elaine Luria, 2nd District, a former Naval Officer, said “Colin Powell was a patriot who served his country with honor and distinction. May his memory be a blessing.”
After serving three decades in the U.S. Marine Corps, John Horton retired as a Marine Sergeant Major in 1980.
He is a frequent editorial contributor to the GUIDE.
Horton, who lives in Norfolk, said that although he deeply admired Powell for his service, his legacy is a mixed bag.
“He had an impeccable military record,” said Horton. “He spoke truth to power and was a great leader. The downside was his misrepresentation of the truth for the (George W. Bush) administration of the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There was none.”
“Therefore a lot of our soldiers were killed and billions were wasted,” said Horton. “He knew he was playing and had to go along with the political program. But he made up for it by refuting the rightward turn of the Republicans. He endorsed Baack Obama for President and became a mentor for young Black people.”
Virginia Congressperson Robert “Bobby,” Scott of the 3rd District, called Powell “a patriot who dedicated his life to serving the United States both in uniform and as a civilian.”
“Over the course of his historic life and career, he exemplified the temperament and leadership that should be the model for all Americans,” Scott said.
“He treated everyone with dignity and respect, and never put politics before his devotion to our country.”
U.S. Congressperson A. Donald McEachin, of the 4th District, said in a media statement “The glass is always half full! We are a better nation and we are a better world because of a life well lived by General Colin Powell.”
“Gen. Powell was a veteran, trailblazer, and a lifelong public servant,” the lawmaker said. “He served as the 16th U.S. National Security Advisor, the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and was the first African American Secretary of State. He will be remembered for his years of service, patriotism, and staunch commitment to the United States.
“We are incredibly grateful for his years of remarkable leadership and service to our nation.”
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released the following statement from Spencer Overton, president of the Black think tank.
“I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Colin Powell. General Powell had a reputation for generating bipartisan support, being a trusted military adviser, and putting country over party” Overton said.
“General Powell was a true leader and a man of many firsts…“
Powell, born in New York’s Harlem, rose from a combat soldier who was wounded when he saw combat duty in Vietnam to become the first Black national security adviser during the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush.
Though Powell never mounted a White House bid, when he was sworn in as Bush’s Secretary of State in 2001, he became the highest-ranking Black public official to date in the country, standing fourth in the presidential line of succession.
His national popularity soared in the aftermath of the US-led coalition victory during the Gulf War, and for a time in the mid-90s, he was considered a leading contender to become the first Black President of the United States.
But his reputation was stained when, as George W. Bush’s first Secretary of State, he pushed faulty intelligence before the United Nations to advocate for the Iraq War, which he would later call a “blot” on his record.
Bush said in a statement Monday that Powell was “a great public servant” who was “such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad.
Powell later in his life, distanced himself from the Republican party. He openly endorsed Barack Obama, the first Black president in the final weeks of the 2008 campaign.
Powell is survived by his wife, Alma Vivian (Johnson) Powell, whom he married in 1962, as well as three children.