WASHINGTON , - Friends, family, and former colleagues have honored Colin L. Powell. The widely praised soldier/diplomat rose from humble Bronx roots to become the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and later became the first Black secretary of State.
At the Washington National Cathedral, Powell will be remembered. The funeral will be attended by President Joe Biden, but he is not expected to speak. Madeleine Albright, the nation's highest diplomat, will be there. Richard Armitage was Powell's deputy secretary and they had been friends since their time at the Pentagon under the Reagan administration. Powell's son Michael will also be there.
Powell, 84, died October 18 from complications due to COVID-19. Although he was vaccinated against coronavirus, his family stated that Powell's immune system had been compromised due to multiple myeloma. This is a blood cancer that he had been receiving treatment for.
Many people will be inspired by the story of Powell's rise in American society.
Powell's autobiography "My American Journey" recounts a post-Depression Era childhood living in Hunts Point, New York City's South Bronx. He was a poor student, happy-go-lucky, but apathetic.
In 1954, he was bitten by the military bug and enrolled at City College of New York. Powell was inspired to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps after seeing his fellow students wearing uniforms.
He wrote, "I felt distinct" in uniform. He would be a distinguished soldier in the Army's pioneering career.
He was just 4 years old when the United States entered World War II. However, he retained vivid memories of those war years. He wrote, "I deployed legions and commanded battles on the living-room rug" -- a fantasy forerunner to his Army years.
Even before he was promoted to flag officer rank, he made a name for himself at the Pentagon. He worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the late 1970s. In 1983, he was a brigadier-general and became the senior military advisor to Defense Secretary Caspar Wineberger. Later, he served as President Ronald Reagan's national-security adviser. In 1989, he was promoted four-star general. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed him as chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Former President George W. Bush stated that Powell was a "favorite of presidents" when Powell's death announcement was made.
He was honored for his pioneering American dream journey, which earned him international trust and acclaim.
In February 2003, Powell put his credibility at risk when he appeared before the United Nations as secretary-of-state to argue for war against Iraq. Powell's reputation for being a stellar diplomat was destroyed when it became clear that the intelligence he had cited was flawed and the Iraq War was a bloody, chaotic disaster.
It wasn't destroyed. He left government to become an older statesman on the international stage. He also founded an organization that aims to help young Americans who are disadvantaged. Republicans wanted him running for president. He became disillusioned in his party and voted for the Democratic presidential candidates.
Powell's influence remained strong at the top of the U.S. defence establishment long after his retirement from public life. Lloyd Austin, the first Black secretary to defense in January, called Powell a friend. Austin rose through the ranks to become a four star general, just like Powell.
Austin called Powell "one of our greatest leaders" on the day Powell died.
Powell was one of several notable national security leaders who died this year. He was also a member of President Ronald Reagan's Cabinet, and secretary to the state under President George H.W. Bush; and Donald H. Rumsfeld who was twice secretary of defense. A former commander of U.S. forces, Army General Raymond Odierno, was killed by cancer just weeks before Powell died.