Colin Powell dies

By Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 7:32 p.m. ET, October 18, 2021
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8:35 a.m. ET, October 18, 2021

Colin Powell's family announced his death on Facebook with this post

Colin Powell, the first Black US secretary of state whose leadership in several Republican administrations helped shape American foreign policy in the last years of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st, has died from complications from Covid-19, his family said on Facebook. He was 84 years old.

Although he served in a Republican administration, later in his public life, he would grow disillusioned with the party's rightward lurch and would use his political capital to help elect Democrats to the White House, most notably Barack Obama, the first Black president whom Powell endorsed in the final weeks of the 2008 campaign.

The family announced his death with this post:

8:32 a.m. ET, October 18, 2021

Here's a look back at some key moments from Colin Powell's career

Colin Powell addresses the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003, to present the United States’ case against Iraq under UN Resolution 1441 regarding weapons of mass destruction.
Colin Powell addresses the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003, to present the United States’ case against Iraq under UN Resolution 1441 regarding weapons of mass destruction. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Colin Powell, the first Black US secretary of state, has died from complications from Covid-19, his family said on Facebook. Powell was also the youngest person and first African-American to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Although he served in a Republican administration, later in his public life, he would grow disillusioned with the party's rightward lurch and would use his political capital to help elect Democrats to the White House, most notably Barack Obama, the first Black president whom Powell endorsed in the final weeks of the 2008 campaign.

Here's a look back at some key moments from his career as secretary of state and beyond:

  • Nov. 1987-Jan. 1989 - National security adviser to President Ronald Reagan.
  • 1989-1994 - Commander in chief of the Forces Command at Ft. McPherson, Georgia.
  • Oct. 1, 1989-Sept. 30, 1993 - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Jan. 20, 2001- Is appointed and unanimously confirmed as secretary of state.
  • Jan. 26, 2001 - Is sworn in as the 65th secretary of state of the United States.
  • Feb. 5, 2003 - Powell addresses the United Nations Security Council to present the United States’ case against Iraq under UN Resolution 1441 regarding weapons of mass destruction.
  • Dec. 15, 2003 - Undergoes surgery for prostate cancer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He was diagnosed with the disease earlier in the year.
  • Nov. 15, 2004 - The White House announces President Bush has accepted Powell’s letter of resignation dated Nov. 12. The letter states he will remain in office until his successor is confirmed.
  • Jan. 26, 2005 - Powell’s resignation becomes effective with the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice.
  • 2005 - Joins the California venture capital firm of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers as a “strategic limited partner.”
  • March 2006 - The National War College Foundation establishes the Colin Powell Chair for National Security, Leadership, Character and Ethics.
  • Summer 2007 - Begins to speak out against the Bush administration’s decision to go war against Iraq, the increase in troop strength in Iraq and the treatment of prisons at Guantanamo Bay.
  • Jan. 20, 2009 - Is one of the honorary co-chairs of President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Powell endorsed Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.
  • Feb. 3, 2010 - Powell reverses his stance on gays and lesbians in the military; his opposition to homosexuals in the military helped lead to the original “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the 1990s.
  • 2012 - Publishes a second memoir, “It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership,” with Tony Koltz.
  • Oct. 7, 2018 - Powell, along with former secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright makes a cameo appearance on the CBS show “Madam Secretary.”
  • June 1, 2019 - Along with his wife Alma, Powell receives the Lincoln Medal, an award given by Ford’s Theatre Society. The society celebrates those who embody the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln.
  • Jan. 10, 2021 - Following the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, Powell says he no longer considers himself a Republican.

Read more about Powell's career here.

CNN's Devan Cole contributed reporting to this post. 

8:26 a.m. ET, October 18, 2021

Colin Powell, military leader and first Black secretary of state, dies at age 84 from Covid-19 complications

From CNN's Kylie Atwood and Devan Cole

(Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis/Getty Images)
(Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis/Getty Images)

Colin Powell, the first Black US secretary of state whose leadership in several Republican administrations helped shape American foreign policy in the last years of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st, has died from complications from Covid-19, his family said on Facebook. He was 84 years old.

"General Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away this morning due to complications from Covid-19. He was 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.

Powell was a distinguished and trailblazing professional soldier whose career took him from combat duty in Vietnam to becoming the first Black national security adviser during the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former President George H.W. Bush.

His national popularity soared in the aftermath of the US-led coalition victory during the Gulf War, and for a time in the mid-90s, he was considered a leading contender to become the first Black President of the United States.

But his reputation would be forever stained when, as George W. Bush’s first secretary of state, he pushed faulty intelligence before the United Nations to advocate for the Iraq War, which he would later call a “blot” on his record.