Colin Luther Powell (April 5, 1937 – October 18, 2021) was an statesman, diplomat, and retired four-star general in the United States Army. He earned numerous military, civilian, and foreign honors. He also served four presidential administrations in a variety of roles, most recently as Secretary of State (under President George W. Bush) from 2001 to 2005.
Powell was born in New York City in 1937 and was raised in the South Bronx. His parents, Luther and Maud Powell, immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. He was educated in the New York City public schools and received a bachelor’s degree in geology from the City College of New York (CCNY). He also participated in ROTC at CCNY and received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in June 1958. He was a professional soldier for 35 years, during which time he held many command and staff positions and rose to the rank of four-star general. He was Commander of the US Army Forces Command in 1989.
Powell’s last military assignment, from October 1989 to September 1993, was as Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, the highest military position in the Department of Defense. During this time, he oversaw 28 crises, including the invasion of Panama in 1989 and Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq in 1990–1991. He formulated the Powell Doctrine, which limits American military action unless it satisfies criteria regarding American national security interests, overwhelming force, and widespread public support.
He lived in Virginia, where he died from complications of COVID-19 on October 18, 2021.
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