Colin Powell, the first Black secretary of state and Joint Chiefs of Staff, has died Monday at the age of 84 after suffering from complications related to COVID-19. Powell’s family announced his death on Facebook.
His family confirmed the former chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff was fully vaccinated.
“We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the post reads.
Born in Harlem, New York, to Jamaican parents, Powell was a retired four-star general who served in multiple administrations. He was an icon of the Republican Party, serving as the youngest and first Black national security adviser under former President Ronald Reagan and first Black national security adviser and as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush. And in 1995, he toyed with a presidential run.
Powell left at the end of Bush’s first term as questions swirled about whether he should have done more to stop the war in Iraq before it started.
In his later years and during former President Donald Trump’s presidency, Powell began to move away from the party he had affiliated himself with for so long.
In 2008, during then-candidate Barack Obama’s presidential run, Powell stood up to decry those who falsely called Obama a Muslim in order to discredit him.
In 2019, Powell referred to himself as a “moderate Republican.”
“I’m a moderate Republican who believes we should have a strong foreign policy, a strong defense policy, but we have to look out for our people. And ought to work hard to make sure we’re one country, one team. And so on that basis, I called myself a Republican,” Powell said during a lecture.
Powell was openly critical of Trump. In the same lecture, he called out the two-time impeached, one-term president.
“In my time, in her time, one of us would have gone to the President and said, ‘you screwed up.’ So we’ve got to fix it, and we’ll put out a correction. You know what happened this time? They ordered the Commerce Department to go out and back up whatever the President has said,” Powell said. “This is not the way the country is supposed to run, and Congress is one of the institutions that should be doing something about this. All parts of Congress. The media has a role to play. We all have a role to play. We’ve got to remember that all these pieces are part of our government: Executive Branch, Congress, Supreme Court and the fourth estate. And we have to remember the Constitution started with ‘we the people,’ not ‘me the President.’”
By 2020, Powell distanced himself even farther from the GOP, openly discussing his vote for President Joe Biden.
After the Jan. 6 insurrection, Powell told Fareed Zakaria on CNN’s GPS that he couldn't call himself a Republican any longer and condemned other Republicans for not admonishing Trump.
"They should have known better, but they were so taken by their political standing and how none of them wanted to put themselves at political risk. They would not stand up and tell the truth or stand up and criticize him or criticize others," Powell told Zakaria. "And that's what we need. We need people who will speak the truth, who remember that they are here for our fellow citizens. They are here for our country. They are not here simply to be re-elected again."
Condolences for Powell are pouring out across social media as his death was announced.
Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, wrote on Twitter that Powell “lived a life of honor and integrity.”
As his family confirmed, Powell was fully vaccinated. Fox News is reportedly already jumping on his vaccination status to confirm the false narrative that vaccines don’t work.