Former Secretary of State Colin Powell Dies of COVID-19 Complications At 84

His family cited complications from COVID-19 but said he was fully vaccinated.

Paul Morigi | Getty Images

This story originally appeared on Business Insider

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell died of COVID-19 complications on Monday morning, his family said in a Facebook post. He was 84.

Powell was fully vaccinated and had received treatment from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, his family said.

The New York Times reported that Powell's immune system had been weakened by treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells.

He is survived by Alma Powell, his wife of 59 years, and two daughters, Linda and Annemarie Powell.

Powell served as the secretary of state from 2001 to 2005, under President George W. Bush. He was the first African American to hold the position.

He also served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993, under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

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

Being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 dramatically reduces a person's risk of hospitalization and death from the disease, though rare severe breakthrough cases can still happen. Alma Powell also had a breakthrough case of COVID-19 but recovered, CBS News reported.'

Colin Powell, who was born to Jamaican immigrants in New York City in 1937, joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps in college. He went on to have a long and distinguished career spanning over three decades in the US Army, earning numerous awards and decorations and rising to the rank of four-star general in 1989.

Under President Ronald Reagan, Powell was the first Black national security advisor. And under President George H. W. Bush, he became the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As Bush's first secretary of state, he was a major advocate of the US's invasion of Iraq and a proponent of the notion that the invasion was justified because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was capable of producing biological weapons of mass destruction. He later called it a "blot" on his record, after the intelligence he'd pushed was found to be faulty.

In a statement on Monday, George W. Bush said he was "deeply saddened" by Powell's death.

"He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam. Many Presidents relied on General Powell's counsel and experience," Bush said, adding: "He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend."

Powell declared himself a Republican in the 1990s, after his service in the military, but later in life he helped to elect Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden. He formally left the Republican Party and declared himself an independent after the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6.

He was repeatedly touted as a possible presidential candidate, but he never ran. Powell, however, earned three electoral votes in the 2016 presidential election from so-called faithless electors in Washington state, spurring a Supreme Court case over the constitutionality of Washington's law punishing faithless electors.

He voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, despite having criticized her "hubris." He called Donald Trump a "national disgrace and an international pariah."

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