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Colin Powell
Colin Powell official Secretary of State photo.jpg
Official portrait, January 2001
65th United States Secretary of State
In office
January 20, 2001 – January 26, 2005
President George W. Bush
Deputy Richard Armitage
Preceded by Madeleine Albright
Succeeded by Condoleezza Rice
12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
In office
October 1, 1989 – September 30, 1993
President George H. W. Bush
Bill Clinton
Deputy Robert T. Herres
David E. Jeremiah
Preceded by William J. Crowe
Succeeded by John Shalikashvili
16th United States National Security Advisor
In office
November 23, 1987 – January 20, 1989
President Ronald Reagan
Deputy John Negroponte
Preceded by Frank Carlucci
Succeeded by Brent Scowcroft
United States Deputy National Security Advisor
In office
December 1986 – November 23, 1987
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Peter Rodman
Succeeded by John Negroponte
Personal details
Colin Luther Powell

(1937-04-05)April 5, 1937
New York City, U.S.
Died October 18, 2021(2021-10-18) (aged 84)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Cause of death Problems caused by COVID-19
Political party Independent
(before 1995, 2021)
Other political
Republican (1995–2021)
(m. 1962)
Children Michael, Linda, Annemarie
Education City College of New York (BS)
George Washington University (MBA)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Army
Years of service 1958–1993
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Unit 3rd Armored Division
23rd Infantry Division
Commands Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
United States Army Forces Command
V Corps
2nd Brigade 101st Airborne Division
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Invasion of Panama
Gulf War
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Army Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (2)
Soldier's Medal
Bronze Star Medal
Full list

Colin Luther Powell, KCB (Honorary), MSC, (April 5, 1937 – October 18, 2021) was an American General in the United States Army and politician. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005), serving under President George W. Bush. He was the first African American appointed to that position. As a General in the United States Army, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993), holding the latter position during the Gulf War. He was the first and, so far, the only African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Early life

He was born Colin Luther Powell on April 5, 1937, in Harlem, New York City, New York. His father, Luther Powell, was a shipping clerk. His mother, Maud Powell, was a seamstress. Both had immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. He grew up in south Bronx. He joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) while he was a student at City College of New York. He commanded his unit's precision drill team and achieved the highest rank in ROTC, cadet colonel. When he graduated in 1958, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army.

Army career

His first assignment was in West Germany. He was promoted to the rank of Captain on June 1, 1962. Powell then served two tours of duty during the Vietnam War. He was wounded twice while in Vietnam. Once by a Viet Cong booby trap. He received a Purple Heart. A year later he received a Bronze Star Medal. He was wounded a second time in a helicopter crash where he saved two other soldiers. For this action he was awarded the Soldier's Medal. Between his two tours in Vietnam, Powell was promoted to the rank of major in May 1966.

Powell then earned an MBA degree at George Washington University in Washington, DC. He received a White House fellowship and worked in the Office of Management and Budget during 1972–1973. As a lieutenant colonel Powell served as a battalion commander in the 2d Infantry Division. In 1975 Powell was promoted to full colonel and became a brigade commander in the 101st Airborne Division. He was promoted to the rank of general in 1989. He was appointed to the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President George H. W. Bush. He oversaw a number of crisis situations including Operation Desert Storm. In 1993 he retired from the military as a four-star general.

United States Secretary of State

In 2001 he was nominated and confirmed as US Secretary of State. After the September 11 attacks he took a leading role in aligning allies for military action in Afghanistan. Powell dealt with a number of international crises including a near war between India and Pakistan (both of which had nuclear weapons) in 2001–2002. In February 2003 he appeared before the United Nations Security Council. He presented evidence that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This convinced many in the US that Iraq was a threat. In September 2004 he appeared before the United States Congress to testify that the intelligence used to show Iraq had WMDs was wrong. Then, on November 15, 2004, Powell announced his resignation.

Later life

Powell supported Barack Obama for President of the United States in 2008 and 2012.

In 2016, while not a candidate for that year's election, he received three electoral votes from Washington for President of the United States. After Barack Obama, Powell was only the second Black person to receive electoral votes in a presidential election.

Powell was a critic of the Donald Trump administration, believing he was not qualified to be president. He supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president in 2016. On June 7, 2020, Powell announced he would be voting for former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. In August, Powell delivered a speech in support of Biden's candidacy at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

In January 2021, after the Capitol building was attacked by Trump supporters, Powell said he left the Republican Party.


On October 18, 2021, Powell, who was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland for multiple myeloma-related treatment, died from problems caused by COVID-19 on October 18, 2021 at the age of 84. He was fully vaccinated; however his cancer made his immune system weak. He also had Parkinson's disease when he died.

Dates of rank

Rank Date
US Army O10 shoulderboard rotated.svg General April 4, 1989
US Army O9 shoulderboard rotated.svg Lieutenant general July 1, 1986
US Army O8 shoulderboard rotated.svg Major general August 1, 1983
US Army O7 shoulderboard rotated.svg Brigadier general June 1, 1979
US Army O6 shoulderboard rotated.svg Colonel February 1, 1976
US Army O5 shoulderboard rotated.svg Lieutenant colonel July 9, 1970
US Army O4 shoulderboard rotated.svg Major May 24, 1966
US Army O3 shoulderboard rotated.svg Captain June 2, 1962
US Army O2 shoulderboard rotated.svg First lieutenant December 30, 1959
US Army O1 shoulderboard rotated.svg Second lieutenant June 9, 1958

Awards and decorations


Medals and ribbons

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Distinguished Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster
Soldier's Medal
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Air Medal
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction (1993)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (1991)
Presidential Citizens Medal
Secretary's Distinguished Service Award
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star
Silver star
Vietnam Service Medal with silver service star
Army Service Ribbon
Award numeral 4.png
Army Overseas Service Ribbon with award numeral 4
N/A Gerald R. Ford Medal for Distinguished Public Service (2021)

Foreign decorations

Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) (United Kingdom)
Légion d'honneur, Grand Cross (France)
Meritorious Service Cross (M.S.C.) (Canada)
Skanderbeg's Order (Albania)
Order of Stara Planina in the First Order (Bulgaria)
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

Other achievements

  • 1993 he was the founder of America's Promise. This is a charitable organization that helps at-risk children.
  • 1993 was awarded an honorary Knight Commander (KCB) of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II.
  • 1995, Powell published his memoir, "My American Journey".
  • 1997 he started America's Promise Alliance to help children and youths.
  • 2012 he published his second memoir "It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership".

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Colin Powell para niños

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