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Colin Powell, a trailblazing leader who served as the top US soldier, diplomat, and national security advisor, died on Monday.
The 84-year-old, who died of complications from COVID-19, was fully vaccinated and had been treated at the Walter Reed National Medical Center, according to his family.
His death elicited sorrow among the numerous government leaders who he’d interacted with during his extensive service in Washington, DC, and across the country.
Former President George W. Bush, who tapped Powell to serve as Secretary of State in his administration, released a statement praising him and honoring his service to the United States.
“Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell,” the former president said. “He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam. Many Presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience.”
Bush added: “He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice. 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.”
President Joe Biden, who as a US Senator from Delaware worked with Powell extensively regarding military and national defense issues, released a statement to pay tribute to his longtime friend.
“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat,” he said. “He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all. Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that military might alone was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity. Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else — in uniform and out — and it earned him the universal respect of the American people.”
In his statement, the president also made reference to a Corvette drag race that took place between the two men on the CNBC reality business show “Jay Leno’s Garage” in 2016.
“Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times. He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business — something I learned firsthand on the race track when I was Vice President,” he said. “I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and for our shared battle for the soul of the nation. I will miss being able to call on his wisdom in the future.”
Former President Barack Obama, who received Powell’s endorsement during his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, lauded the general’s commitment to American ideals, even when presented with challenges.
“Everyone who worked with General Powell appreciated his clarity of thought, insistence on seeing all sides, and ability to execute,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Obama added: “He never denied the role that race played in his own life and in our society more broadly. But he also refused to accept that race would limit his dreams, and through his steady and principled leadership, helped pave the way for so many who would follow.”
Former President Jimmy Carter, who served in office from 1977 to 1981, also released a statement commemorating Powell’s life.
“Rosalynn and I join so many around the world in mourning the loss of General Colin Powell. A true patriot and public servant, we were honored to work beside him to strengthen communities in the United States, help resolve conflict in Haiti, and observe elections in Jamaica. His courage and integrity will be an inspiration for generations to come. We will keep his family in our prayers during this difficult time,” he said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin mourned Powell’s death after the news was released, calling him a “tremendous friend and mentor.”
“The world lost one of the greatest leaders that we have ever witnessed. Alma lost a great husband, and the family lost a tremendous father. And I lost a tremendous personal friend and mentor,” he said. “He has been my mentor for a number of years. He always made time for me and I could always go to him with tough issues. He always had great counsel. We will certainly miss him.”
Austin also paid homage to Powell becoming the first Black secretary of state in US history in 2001.
“I feel as if I have a hole in my heart just learning of this just recently. First African-American chairman of the Joint Chiefs, first African-American secretary of State, a man who was respected around the globe,” he said. “Quite frankly, it is not possible to replace a Colin Powell. We will miss him.”
Ret. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2011 to 2015, on Monday praised his longtime friend.
“Just learned of the passing of my friend and mentor, Colin Powell. A superb soldier, statesman, and lifelong public servant. God bless him and his family,” he wrote on Twitter.
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who represents a military-heavy state, spoke of Powell’s deep commitment to the country.
“General Powell was a patriot and a public servant. May he rest in peace,” he wrote on Twitter.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah in a statement heralded Powell and his lifetime of service to the country.
“Today, the nation lost a man of undaunted courage and a champion of character. A statesman & trailblazer, devoted to America and the cause of liberty, Colin Powell’s legacy of service & honor will long inspire. Ann & I offer our love & sincere condolences to Alma and his family,” he wrote on Twitter.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former congressman who also led the Drug and Drug Enforcement Administration from 2001 to 2003, paid reverence to Powell.
“Our nation has lost a true hero & statesman with the passing of Colin Powell,” he wrote on Twitter. “Secretary Powell dedicated his life to serving our country. My respect for him grew as we both served in the Bush Administration after 9/11. Susan & I are praying for his family in this time of loss.”
And GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a former Lt. Colonel in the US Air Force who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, applauded the general’s character and influence on America.
“The life, impact, and legacy of Colin Powell will long be remembered and admired — we are a better nation for his dedication and leadership, for his guidance and love of country,” he said on Twitter. “My prayers are with his family and loved ones on this tremendous loss.”
This article has been updated.
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