NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH/AP) — Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died Monday morning at age 84, his family said in a statement.
According to the statement on his official Facebook page, Powell had been fully vaccinated.
“We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather, and a great American,” the Powell family said.
Peggy Cifrino, Powell’s longtime aide, said he had been treated over the past few years for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. The Powell family’s social media post did not address whether Powell had any underlying illnesses.
Multiple myeloma impairs the body’s ability to fight infection, and studies have shown that those cancer patients don’t get as much protection from the COVID-19 vaccines as healthier people.
At the White House, President Joe Biden said Powell “embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat.”
Noting Powell’s rise from a childhood in a fraying New York City neighborhood, Biden said, “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.”
Flags were lowered at the White House and State Department.
Powell was the first African American to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later U.S. secretary of state, for which he was unanimously confirmed in 2001.
As head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he oversaw the U.S. invasion of Panama and later the U.S. invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991.
He would go on to make a persuasive case before the U.N. Security Council in 2003 for U.S. military action against Iraq, claiming that Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction. The war was waged, Saddam was toppled and killed, Iraq was destabilized, but no such weapons were found and his reputation suffered a painful setback.
Powell consistently defended his support of the Iraq War. He cited faulty information claiming Hussein had secretly stashed away weapons of mass destruction. He told the U.N. that Iraq’s claims that it had not represented “a web of lies.”
A lifelong Republican, Powell had little use for former President Donald Trump, endorsing Hillary Clinton in 2016 and speaking in support of Joe Biden at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. He left the Republican Party after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Former President George W. Bush said he and former first lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.
“He was a great public servant” and “widely respected at home and abroad,” Bush said. “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.”
The Associated Press and Nexstar Media Wire contributed to this report.