Colin Powell’s widow Alma led mourners including Joe and Jill Biden, former presidents and the most prominent members of the political and military elite at his funeral on Friday following his death from COVID complications last month at age 84.
Barack and Michelle Obama, George W. and Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton – without her husband Bill during his recovery from an infection – sat together in the front row for the Pentagon powerhouse’s ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, national security advisor Condoleeza Rice were also in attendance to pay tribute to the first black Secretary of State who served five administrations.
The Powell’s children Linda and Michael Powell, their grandchildren and nieces and nephews followed the casket as it was carried to the front of the cathedral.
Dr. Anthony Fauci was also spotted at the service, as was Secretary of State Antony Blinken, along with Biden advisor Susan Rice and State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
Powell, who was battling a rare blood cancer, died last month at 84 from complications related to COVID-19. He had been vaccinated by his family said his immune system was compromised by his battle with multiple myeloma.
The Harlem-born son of Jamaican immigrants served in Vietnam with the Army, was awarded the Solider’s Medal for saving fellow soldiers from a burning helicopter and went on to serve as a top military advisor in five administrations from Reagan to George W. Bush.
The funeral began at noon ET. Before it started, the US Army Brass quintet played happy tunes, including ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA, a favorite of Powell’s.
Donald Trump did not attend, after criticizing the media for treating Powell ‘so beautifully’ in his death even though he made ‘big mistakes’, and 97-year-old Jimmy Carter is believed to have stayed at home in Georgia.
Colin Powell’s widow Alma lead mourners including Joe and Jill Biden, former presidents and the most prominent members of the political and military elite at his funeral on Friday following his death from COVID complications last month at age 84.
Barack and Michelle Obama, George W. and Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton – without her husband Bill during his recovery from an infection – sat together in the front row for the Pentagon powerhouse’s ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral
Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrive and greet (from left) former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush, former first lady Laura Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before the funeral
Colin Powell’s widow Alma led mourners including Joe and Jill Biden, former presidents and the most prominent members of the political and military elite at his funeral on Friday
President and First Lady Biden arrived after the Obamas and Bushes at the service on Friday at Washington National Cathedral where the late general was eulogized by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Barack and Michelle Obama are seated at the funeral next to George and Laura Bush, with Hillary Clinton sitting solo on the end
President Biden, first lady Jill and Barack Obama turn to each other in the front row of the National Cathedral
President Obama hugs First Lady Jill Biden with his wife Michelle standing by his side
Powell’s casket arrives at the National Cathedral. The Pentagon powerhouse died last month at the age of 84 from COVID complications. He also had blood cancer and Parkinson’s
Guests rise as Colin Powell’s casket is carried into the National Cathedral
A somber Alma Powell is seated above at her husband’s funeral
Alma Powell is escorted by Maj. Gen. Allan M. Pepin
Two former presidents chat at Powell’s funeral. Bush had his mask below his nose for much of the service
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hugs Dr. Anthony Fauci before the service
Fauci and Cheney shake hands at the funeral
Presidents Bush and Biden shake hands before the service on Friday afternoon
Former U.S. President George W. Bush puts his arm around joint chiefs chairman Gen. Mark Milley
He is survived by his wife Alma, who had also tested positive for Covid around the same time, their three children and multiple grandchildren.
Powell was eulogized by Albright, who preceded him as secretary of state; Richard Armitage, who was deputy secretary under Powell and had known him since they served together in the Pentagon during the Reagan administration; and Powell’s son Michael.
Michael Powell, his voice cracking as he choked back tears, described his father as a ‘great lion with a big heart.’
‘I’ve heard it asked, “Are we still making his kind?”‘ the younger Powell said. ‘I believe the answer to that question is up to us. To honor his legacy I hope we do more than consign him to the history books.’
‘I hope we recommit ourselves to being a nation where we are still making his kind.’
During her tenure as ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration, Albright sometimes clashed with Powell, although they became good friends. Both have recalled the time, during his final months as Joint Chiefs chairman, when she argued for a U.S. military intervention in the Balkans, asking why the United States had built a superb military if it couldn´t be used in such circumstances. Powell recalled being so irritated by her statement, ‘I thought I would have an aneurysm.’
Powell often emphasized his belief the US should only deploy its military when it had a clear and achievable objective, in what became known as the Powell Doctrine.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney attended the service. Powell was secretary of state when Cheney was VP
George W. Bush and Michelle Obama chat at the funeral. Their tight friendship has been well documented
Former Sec. of State Madeleine Albright and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage gave eulogies
Morning dawns over the National Cathedral ahead of the funeral service for U.S. former Secretary of State Colin Powel
Family members of Colin Powell hold hands as they follow the casket inside the service
Colin Powell died last month at the age of 84 due to complications from COVID-19. He is leaving behind his wife, Alma, who also had a breakthrough case of coronavirus
Biden had ordered all US flags across government buildings and military posts nationwide to fly half staff until October 22 in honor of four-star general.
Powell was the first black secretary of State and to this day is the only black man to ever serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was born in 1937 in Harlem, New York, to immigrants from Jamaica and grew up in the South Bronx
He served under several Republican administrations – including for Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Also, from 1991-1993, he served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for Bill Clinton after being appointed to the post halfway through Bush Sr’s tenure.
Powell served 35 years in uniform. He was commissioned in 1958 as a second lieutenant and served as a platoon leader in what was then called West Germany.
In 1962 he was deployed to Vietnam for a year as an adviser to a South Vietnamese infantry battalion. During that tour he was wounded; he served a second tour in Vietnam in 1968 and afterward held a variety of assignments at home and abroad.
In the late 1970s he worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and in 1983 as a brigadier general he became the senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.
He later served in the White House as President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser, and in 1989 he was promoted to four-star general. Later that year, President George H.W. Bush selected him to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
‘He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice,’ former President George W. Bush said when Powell’s death was announced.
His decades-long legacy was marred by a 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council in which he claimed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
After leaving government, Powell became an elder statesman on the global stage and the founder of an organization aimed at helping young disadvantaged Americans.
Republicans wanted him to run for president but he ended up endorsing the last three Democratic presidential candidates – including Obama and Biden.
In a statement after Powell’s death, Joe Biden commended Powell as having ‘the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat’ and commemorating his humble beginnings – the two are seen together above in January 2009
In a statement after Powell’s death, Biden commended Powell as having ‘the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat’ and commemorating his humble beginnings.
Obama called Powell ‘an exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot.’
‘And although he’d be the first to acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right, his actions reflected what he believed was best for America and the people he served.’
On a personal level, Obama stated he was ‘deeply appreciative’ that Powell not only endorsed him in 2008 but ‘what impressed me more was how he did it.’
‘At a time when conspiracy theories were swirling, with some questioning my faith, General Powell took the opportunity to get to the heart of the matter in a way only he could.’
He recalled a time Powell corrected someone on Obama’s religious faith, and added, ‘What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?’
Obama continued on to say ‘That’s who Colin Powell was.’
From the son of Jamaican immigrants to a Pentagon heavyweight: How the first black Secretary of State Colin Powell went from childhood in the Bronx, to soldier in Vietnam, and rose rapidly to lead the US into Iraq and Afghanistan
Colin Powell, the Harlem-born son of Jamaican immigrants who was awarded military honors for saving fellow soldiers from a burning helicopter crash in Vietnam and went on to become the first black Secretary of State, has died at age 84.
The former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was fully vaccinated but died of COVID-19 complications, his family announced on Facebook.
He had previously been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that impacts the body’s ability to fight infections. Powell also suffered from Parkinson’s and underwent surgery for prostate cancer in 2003.
He was born in New York on April 5, 1937 to Luther and Maude Powell, who arrived in Philadelphia on a ‘banana boat’ steamer from Jamaica in the 1920s.
Powell spent his youth being educated in the New York City public school system through college, when a military career first attracted his attention.
A larger-than-life figure across global community, Powell rose from modest means to oversee some of the most significant foreign policy shifts across the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
The retired four-star general’s decades-long legacy was marred by a 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council in which he claimed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Using information that was later proven false, the then-Secretary of State used the purported evidence to justify the US invasion of Iraq. He stepped down from his position at the end of Bush’s first term.
Powell told ABC in 2005 he regarded the speech as a ‘blot’ that will ‘always be a part of my record,’ adding ‘It was painful. It’s painful now.’
But the former chief diplomat was highly regarded across multiple administrations beginning as a White House Fellow under Richard Nixon.
Powell was born in Harlem, New York to Jamaican immigrant parents in 1937. His mother and father arrived in Philadelphia on a ‘banana boat’ from the Caribbean island in the 1920s
Powell posted this photo of himself from the 1950s on Facebook. He spent much of his early years in the South Bronx
Along with his many military honors he also earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice, the Congressional Gold Medal and an award from the NAACP.
‘Many Presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience,’ George W. Bush wrote in a statement on Powell’s death. ‘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 grew up in the South Bronx and graduated from Morris High School in 1954.
His parents referred to him as ‘Chal-in’, the British pronunciation Jamaicans used, when he was growing up. But kids on the street started calling him ‘Coh-lin’ in honor of the hero Second World War fighter pilot Colin Kelly Jr, who died fighting the Japanese navy in the days after Pearl Harbor.
Powell met his wife, Alma Johnson, while stationed in Massachusetts and married her in 1962
Cousin of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Muriel Meggie, foreground, talks about the house that was a home of Powell’s father in Top Hill, Jamaica in this Dec. 17, 2000 file photo
He joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) while at the City College of New York, where he was studying to earn a Bachelor of Science in Geology.
Along with earning his degree Powell graduated college in 1958 as a second lieutenant in the US Army.
That led to a 35-year career in the Army, including leading the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
While stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, Powell met his wife Alma Johnson. They married in 1962 and went on to have two daughters and a son.
Powell’s overseas service began in Vietnam that same year, where he was sent by John F. Kennedy to train South Vietnamese forces.
He was injured soon after in 1963 when he stepped on a booby trapped stake while on patrol, earning a Purple Heart award.
Powell went back to Vietnam in 1968 for a second tour, where he famously escaped a helicopter crash and returned to the burning wreckage multiple times to rescue his fellow soldiers.
Powell’s parents (pictured in their British passport photos) immigrated to the United States from Jamaica in the 1920s
Pictured are the bride’s parents, Alma and Colin Powell, and Powell’s parents Luther and Maude
‘Get mad, then get over it’: Colin Powell’s ’13 Rules’ that he used to guide his personal and professional life
1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
2. Get mad, then get over it.
3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
4. It can be done!
5. Be careful what you choose.
6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
7. You can’t make someone else’s choices.
8. Check small things.
9. Share credit.
10. Remain calm. Be kind.
11. Have a vision.
12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
‘With complete disregard for his own safety and while injured himself, Major Powell returned several times to the smoldering aircraft which was in danger of bursting into flames,’ his subsequent Soldier’s Medal commendation read.
But his years in the military were also marked by a controversial probe into the devastating My Lai massacre. In 1968 US troops slaughtered as many as 500 Vietnamese civilians, which the military kept under wraps until 1970 to widespread condemnation.
In Vietnam Powell was assigned to investigate a letter from a soldier that allegedly backed reports of the massacre.
But upon looking into it Powell declared, ‘in direct refutation of this portrayal, relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.’
He was later accused of covering for the military at a time when the extent of atrocities committed against civilians by US troops wasn’t well known.
Upon his return from Vietnam, Powell worked toward a Masters of Business Administration at George Washington University.
From there Powell embarked on a career in government service when he earned a prestigious White House Fellowship under the Nixon administration in 1972.
After that he returned to active duty from 1973 to 1974 where he commanded a battalion in South Korea.
From 1975 to 1976, Powell attended the National War College. In 1976, Powell was promoted to temporary colonel.
He served in the Democratic Carter administration as an executive assistant in the Energy and Defense Departments.
Powell is shown in Vietnam in this 1963 file photo. That same year he was injured by a booby trap for which he earned a Purple Heart
Powell’s two tours in Vietnam took place in 1963 and 1968. He was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel in 1970, and to permanent major in 1972
During his second tour he famously escaped a helicopter crash and returned to the burning wreckage multiple times to rescue his fellow soldiers
Among the many awards Powell earned over the years was the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice
A formal group photograph of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. L to R: Gen. Carl Edward Vuono, USA; Gen.Larry D. Welch, USAF; Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA; Gen. Robert T. Herres, USAF; Adm. Carlisle A.H. Trost, USN and Gen. Alfred M. Gray, USMC. Photograph, Nov. 7, 1989
Dick Cheney swears Powell in as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George HW Bush
The Powell Doctrine: Eight questions a president must ask themselves before taking military action
- Is a vital national security interest threatened?
- Do we have a clear attainable objective?
- Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
- Have all other nonviolent policy means been fully exhausted?
- Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
- Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
- Is the action supported by the American people?
- Do we have genuine broad international support?
Powell worked his way up the military chain of command for years until Reagan appointed him his national security adviser in 1987.
During that time he continued to rise through the military ranks with a promotion to Brigadier General in 1979, major general in 1983, lieutenant general in 1986 and four-star general in 1989.
His Army service culminated in George H.W. Bush naming Powell as the first black person to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989, where he was confirmed unanimously.
Powell’s first big test came soon after he took office when the Gulf War began in 1990. As the nation’s highest-ranking military adviser he guided US forces through Operation Desert Storm.
The US’s successful Middle East campaign had then received rare public praise for the government’s handling of a conflict and earned Powell a parade in his hometown of New York.
The military code he guided by was dubbed the ‘Powell Doctrine’ in the media.
Powell himself outlined it as a series of eight questions on the national security risks, objectives and public support of any proposed military action.
A president considering military action must answer all eight Powell Doctrine questions affirmatively before authorizing military action, under his philosophy.
He stayed on Joint Chiefs job for most of Bill Clinton’s first year in office but clashed with Clinton officials on a number of social and strategic military fronts.