Colin Powell: Son of Immigrants, First Black US secretary of state Dies 

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WASHIINGTON, DC — According to the AP, Colin Powell, the son of immigrants and first Black US secretary of state, who served Democratic and Republican presidents in war and peace has died of COVID-19 complications. He was 84. His 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. 

He was a classic Immigrant-American success story. Born in Harlem of Jamaican parents, he grew up in the South Bronx and graduated from City College of New York, joining the Army through the R.O.T.C. Starting as a young second lieutenant commissioned in the dawn of a newly desegregated Army, Mr. Powell served two decorated combat tours in Vietnam. He was later national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan at the end of the Cold War, helping to negotiate arms treaties and an era of cooperation with the Soviet president, Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Some famous Immigrant-perspective quotes from Powell:

Only in America could something like this happen ; Look at how far we’ve come but we still have a long way to go…

Image: Mr. Powell as an Army captain in Vietnam in 1963. He served two tours of duty there. Credit…Reuters

Colin Luther Powell was born on April 5, 1937, and reared in the ethnically mixed Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. His parents, Luther Powell, a shipping-room foreman in Manhattan’s garment district, and Maud Ariel McKoy, a seamstress, were immigrants from Jamaica.

The young Mr. Powell graduated from Morris High School in the Bronx. By his own account, he was a mediocre student, carrying a C average at the City College of New York as a geology major.

An early turning point came when he enrolled in the college’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program, drawn by the camaraderie it fostered, the discipline it imposed and its well-defined goals. Cadet Powell joined the Pershing Rifles, a drill team started by Gen. John J. Pershing, a top American commander in World War I. Even after becoming a general, Mr. Powell kept on his desk a pen set he had won for a drill-team competition decades earlier.

“Mine is the story of a Black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx,” he wrote in his 1995 autobiography “My American Journey.”

During a summer R.O.T.C. training tour in Fayetteville, N.C., in 1957, he got a pronounced taste of racism when he was forced to use segregated washrooms at gas stations in the South on the drive home to New York. After graduating from City College in June 1958, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army, the start of a 35-year military career.

He again experienced the still-segregated South during basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., before shipping out to Europe to become a platoon leader in West Germany in the Cold War. While in the service, Mr. Powell met Alma Vivian Johnson on a blind date, and they married in August 1962. In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Linda Powell and Anne Powell Lyons; a son, Michael, who served as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; and four grandchildren.

Mr. Powell was a pathbreaker, serving as the country’s first Black national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state. Beginning with his 35 years in the Army, Mr. Powell was emblematic of the ability of minorities to use the military as a ladder of opportunity.

In an interview with The New York Times in 2007, he analyzed himself in the third person: “Powell is a problem-solver. He was taught as a soldier to solve problems. So he has views, but he’s not an ideologue. He has passion, but he’s not a fanatic. He’s first and foremost a problem-solver.”

Once retired, Mr. Powell, a lifelong independent while in uniform, was courted as a presidential contender by both Republicans and Democrats, becoming America’s most political general since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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.

Image: May 7, 2002 file photo, Secretary of State Colin Powell receives a pat on the cheek from National Security Adivisor Condoleezza Rice, right, in the Oval Office during the meeting between President Bush, and Prime Minister of Israel Ariel Sharon at the White House in Washington.

Condoleezza Rice, Powell’s successor at State and the department’s first black female secretary, praised him as

“a trusted colleague and a dear friend through some very challenging times.”

Bush said Monday that he and former first lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.

Powell wrote a best-selling memoir, “My American Journey,” and flirted with a run for the presidency before deciding in 1995 that campaigning for office wasn’t for him.

No child of privilege, Powell rose through the military ranks and then became the nation’s chief diplomat. “Mine is the story of a Black kid of no early promise from an immigrant family of limited means who was raised in the South Bronx,” he wrote in his 1995 autobiography “My American Journey.”

Credit Sources:

Associated Press

The NewYork Times


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