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First black US Secretary of State Colin Powell dies aged 84

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WASHINGTON – Colin Powell, a US war hero and the first Black Secretary of State who saw his legacy tarnished when he made the case for war in Iraq in 2003, died Monday from complications from Covid-19. 

The 84-year-old retired four-star general was fully vaccinated, his family said in a statement on Facebook, making him one of the most high-profile US public figures to die of a breakthrough infection. “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family said.

After engineering military victory in the 1991 Gulf War, Powell was so widely popular and respected that he was considered a strong candidate to become the first ever Black US president.

He ultimately decided against running for the White House, although he later broke with his Republican party to endorse Barack Obama. A son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell frequently shattered glass ceilings in a trailblazing career that took him from combat in Vietnam to becoming America’s first Black national security advisor under then-president Ronald Reagan. He was also the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush.

Serving four presidents, Powell made his reputation as a man of honor distant from the political fray — an asset in the corridors of power.

George W. Bush described Powell “an American hero, an American example, and a great American story” as he nominated the military man as his secretary of state in 2000. “He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice,” the 43rd president said on Monday. “He was highly respected at home and abroad. And, most important, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”

Powell had a reputation for bipartisanship, straight-talking and integrity, and was praised for his officer’s instincts of duty and honor. US Defense Secretary Austin Powell told reporters Powell was among the “greatest leaders that we have ever witnessed,” lamenting the loss of “a tremendous personal friend and mentor.”

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