Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, top military officer and national security adviser, died on Monday at the age of 84 due to complications from COVID-19. He was fully vaccinated, his family said in a statement on Facebook.
Powell had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, that was in remission and early stage Parkinson’s disease, said a close friend who asked not to be named. The blood cancer reduces the body’s ability to fight infection and puts people at higher risk for severe COVID-19.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” his family said, thanking the staff of the military hospital near Washington who treated Powell, but providing few details about his illness.
The son of Jamaican immigrants who rose to the top of the national security establishment, Powell served three Republican presidents in senior posts and ascended to leadership of the U.S. military as it was regaining its vigor after the trauma of the war in Vietnam, where he served two tours as an army officer.
He was the top U.S. military officer when U.S.-led forces drove Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991 and the chief U.S. diplomat in 2003 when Washington relied on erroneous intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify its invasion of Iraq.
In a brief statement, the Powell family said he had died on Monday morning from COVID-19, had been fully vaccinated against the disease and thanked the medical staff at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center who treated him.
Condolences poured in from Democrats such as U.S. President Joe Biden as well as Powell’s fellow Republicans.
“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat,” Biden said in a statement, describing Powell as a “patriot of unmatched honor and dignity” and a man who “could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business.”
Former President George W. Bush, a Republican who named Powell as U.S. secretary of state, noted that “many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience.”
“He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice,” Bush said, referring to a medal viewed as the U.S. government’s highest civilian award.