Colin Powell, the former United States Secretary of State and the first Black person in the country’s history to fill the position, has died due to complications from COVID-19, his family has said.
Prior to his death at 84, he has been fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 infection, according to his family.
Powell, a four star general who last held public office in 2005, died on Monday, the family said in a statement on Facebook.
“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.
Known as a moderate and pragmatist, Powell was instrumental in shaping the foreign policy of Republican presidential administrations for decades.
He served as National Security Advisor to former President Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1989 and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former President George HW Bush from 1989.
When he was confirmed as former President George Bush’s Secretary of State in 2001, he became the first Black person in US history to fill the role.
At the time, he also became the highest ranking Black official in US history, later equalled by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and surpassed by former President Barack Obama.
Iraq war controversy
While initially opposing the military operation, Powell has been accused of misleading the public in the lead up to US invasion of Iraq in 2003 as he sought to build international support.
In a controversial presentation on February 5, 2003 to the United Nations Security Council, Powell made the Bush administration’s case that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein constituted an imminent danger to the world because of the country’s stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
Powell admitted later that the presentation was rife with inaccuracies and twisted intelligence provided by others in the Bush administration, telling Al Jazeera it represented “a blot” that will “always be a part of my record”.
He had previously considered a bid to become the first Black president in 1996 but his wife Alma’s worries about his safety helped him decide otherwise.
In 2008, he broke with his party to endorse then-candidate Obama, a Democrat.