NBC's Kelly O'Donnell remembers Colin Powell, the first Black Secretary of State, who died today from complications of Covid-19 as he battled cancer. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO: https://cnb.cx/2NGeIvi
Colin Powell, the trailblazing soldier and statesman, has died from Covid complications at the age of 84.
Powell, who was fully vaccinated against Covid, had several underlying conditions. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and had been treated recently for multiple myeloma, according to a Powell family spokesperson.
Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer that hurts the body’s ability to fight infections. Fully vaccinated people with weakened immune systems make up a large proportion of hospitalized breakthrough cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Powell had also undergone surgery for prostate cancer when he was secretary of State nearly two decades ago.
Powell and his wife, Alma Powell, tested positive for Covid a week ago. Alma Powell, who will soon turn 84 herself, has been suffering Covid symptoms and was recovering at home, the spokesperson said.
Colin Powell had planned to get a booster shot last week, but he wasn’t feeling well enough to get it, the spokesperson added.
Tributes pour in
Powell, who served in the military from the early days of the Vietnam era through America’s first war with Iraq, was the nation’s first Black national security advisor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of State.
Leaders and former colleagues hailed him as a leader and a hero. Former President George W. Bush, whom Powell served as secretary of State, praised him as a “great public servant.” His successor at the State Department, Condoleezza Rice, called Powell “a truly great man.”
President Joe Biden called Powell his friend and fondly remembered that the late statesman and general “could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business.”
“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all,” Biden said in a statement. “Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that military might alone was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity.”
Biden ordered flags to be lowered in Powell’s honor through Friday.
Powell, who identified as a Republican, didn’t always toe the party line. He endorsed Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during their presidential campaigns.
“You can be a Republican and still feel strongly about issues such as immigration and improving our education system and doing something about some of the social problems that exist in our society and our country,” he explained in an interview with MSNBC in 2014.
Obama on Monday called Powell “an exemplary patriot,” while remarking on the historic nature of the late leader’s accomplishments.
“Along the way, General Powell helped a generation of young people set their sights higher. He never denied the role that race played in his own life and in our society more broadly,” Obama said in a statement. “But he also refused to accept that race would limit his dreams, and through his steady and principled leadership, helped pave the way for so many who would follow.”
Powell most recently endorsed Biden in his run against then-President Donald Trump.
Powell’s death also triggered reminders of one of the darker moments in his otherwise distinguished career.
After four decades in public service as America’s top soldier, diplomat and national security advisor, Powell’s influence in shaping U.S. diplomacy was later marred by his argument for the Iraq War, which started in 2003.
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