Who was Colin Powell? The legacy, family of America's first Black secretary of state

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Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell died Monday morning of complications from COVID-19, according to a statement from his family shared on his Facebook page.

The four-star general was the first Black Secretary of State in U.S. history, serving from 2001 to 2005 under former President George W. Bush.

Powell, 84, was born April 5, 1937, in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. During his long stint in the military, he served two tours in Vietnam and rose in the ranks as the 12th chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the highest-ranking military appointment in the Defense Department.

"We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American," Powell's family said in its statement.

From the Bronx to the Joint Chiefs

Powell was the son of two immigrants from Jamaica, and he was raised in the South Bronx, according to the Office of the Historian.

After graduating from City College of New York, he joined the U.S. army in 1958 where he served for 35 years until his retirement in 1993. He rose the ranks and was promoted to the rank of general in 1989 and later Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by former President George H.W. Bush.

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As chairman, he oversaw planning for the invasion of Panama and Operation Desert Storm in 1991, according to the U.S. Department of State website.

In 2000, Powell was nominated by then-President George W. Bush as the Secretary of State, the first Black person to hold the position.

Did Colin Powell have family?

Powell married Alma Powell, formerly Johnson, in 1962 and the couple share a son named Michael Powell, according to History Makers.

He also has two daughters Linda Powell and Anne Marie Powell, who both have careers in the film industry.

Portrait of General Colin Powell and his wife Alma Powell at McLean High School in McLean, Virginia.  General Powell is founding chair and Alma Powell is board chair of America’s Promise Alliance, a partnership dedicated to the well-being of young people.
Portrait of General Colin Powell and his wife Alma Powell at McLean High School in McLean, Virginia. General Powell is founding chair and Alma Powell is board chair of America’s Promise Alliance, a partnership dedicated to the well-being of young people.

Alma Powell is a longtime advocate for youth and children's rights and served as the Chair of the Board of Directors for America’s Promise Alliance — a nationwide movement to improve the lives of young people, according to America’s Promise Alliance's website.

Michael Powell followed in the footsteps of his father and joined the military after graduating from the College of William and Mary. After serving in the Army, Michael was appointed by former President George W. Bush as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in 2001.

What are some of Colin Powell's most famous quotes?

  • “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them.”

  • “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters.”

  • “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”

  • “Never get so close to your position that when the position goes, your ego goes with it.”

  • “There is no end to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: agilbert@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Who was Colin Powell? Legacy, family of first Black secretary of state

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