Trailblazing politician Colin Powell dies of COVID-19 complications

General Colin Powell in March 2005. Photo courtesy of Charles Haynes, Flickr.

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Zoë Hill | News Editor

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, 84, died Monday from complications of COVID-19, joining a growing list of notable U.S. officials succumbing to the pandemic. 

Powell had an extensive political and military career, serving as President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H. W. Bush before becoming the first African-American Secretary of State in 2001 under President George W. Bush. Powell served in the U.S. Army for over three decades, rising to the rank of general, fighting in the Vietnam War and earning nearly two dozen military honors including a Purple Heart and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

His term as Secretary was controversial following his inaccurate justifications for the Iraq invasion in 2003. The failed Iraqi invasion, which killed over 4,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, shadowed Powell’s career. He resigned from his position as Secretary when Bush was re-elected in 2005. 

Government flags are to be flown at half-staff until Friday, as ordered by President Joe Biden. Biden referred to Powell as a “patriot of unmatched honor and dignity” in a statement proclaiming the Secretary’s passing. 

“He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others. He embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat,” Biden said. “He led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong. He repeatedly broke racial barriers, blazing a trail for others to follow, and was committed throughout his life to investing in the next generation of leadership.”

The Powell family announced the General’s death on Facebook in a statement. The post noted that Powell was fully vaccinated at the time of his death. He had Parkinson’s disease and had undergone treatment in the past few years for myeloma, a blood cancer, which both severely weakened his immune system, according to the family. 

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” Powell’s family said. 

U.S. officials who have succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic: 

Johnny Lee Baynes, a judge in the New York Supreme Court 2nd Judicial District, died on March 26, 2020.

Bob Glanzer, a representative in the South Dakota House of Representatives, died on April 3, 2020. 

Reggie Bagala, a representative in the Louisiana House of Representatives, died on April 9, 2020.

Noach Dear, a judge in the New York Supreme Court 2nd Judicial District, died on April 20, 2020.

Stephen F. Williams, a federal judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, died on Aug. 7, 2020.

David Andahl , a candidate for the North Dakota House of Representatives, died on Oct. 5, 2020. 

Roy Edwards, a representative in the Wyoming House of Representatives, died on Nov. 2, 2020.

Dick Hinch, a representative in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, died on Dec. 9, 2020.

Ruben Reyes, a judge in the Texas 72nd District Court, died on Dec. 12, 2020.

Jerry Relph, a senator in the Minnesota State Senate, died on Dec. 18, 2020. 

Luke Letlow, a Louisiana representative-elect for the U.S. House of Representatives, died on Dec. 29, 2020. 

A. Benton Chafin, a senator in the Virginia State Senate, died on Jan. 1, 2021.

Ronald Wright, a Texas representative for the U.S. House of Representatives, died on Feb. 7, 2021. 

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