WASHINGTON — Colin Powell, the former general who was the country's first Black secretary of state and its first chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, died Monday due to complications from COVID-19, his family said in a statement on Facebook.
Powell, 84, was fully vaccinated from COVID-19, his family said, and had been treated at Walter Reed National Medical Center.
"We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American," the family said.
Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer of a type of white blood cell. It’s unclear what complications he experienced from COVID-19 or when he tested positive for the disease. The family also did not say when he was vaccinated or if he had received a booster shot.
Powell became the first Black secretary of state under President George W. Bush. As the nation’s chief diplomat, Powell delivered a well-known speech to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003 laying out the White House argument for invading Iraq and stating that there was intelligence that the country had weapons of mass destruction. U.S. troops launched an invasion the following month. The evidence he presented about Iraq having biological weapons was later proven to be incorrect. Powell left the administration shortly after Bush’s re-election in 2004.
Bush said in a statement Monday that he and former first lady Laura Bush were “deeply saddened” by Powell’s death.
“He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam," Bush said. "Many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience. 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."
Bush added that he and his wife sent Powell's widow, Alma, and their children "our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man."
After rising through the military ranks, Powell became a four-star general and then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush. He had served as U.S. national security adviser and deputy national security adviser for President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Powell served twice in Vietnam — during the first tour, he was wounded in action and on the second tour, he received the Soldier's Medal for rescuing several men from a burning helicopter.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin praised Powell's life of national service and counsel in brief remarks to reporters Monday morning.
"The world lost one of the greatest leaders that we have ever witnessed," Austin said. "Alma lost a great husband, and the family lost a tremendous father, and I lost a tremendous personal friend and mentor. 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. I feel as if I have a hole in my heart just learning of this."
Despite serving Republican presidents, Powell said days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that he could no longer call himself a Republican.
“I'm not a fellow of anything right now," he said in an interview on CNN. "I'm just a citizen who has voted Republican, voted Democrat throughout my entire career. And right now I'm just watching my country and not concerned with parties.”
Powell was a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump. In 2016, it was revealed in leaked emails that Powell called the then-GOP presidential candidate a “national disgrace.” In June 2020, Powell and other retired military leaders blasted Trump for threatening to use military force against protesters. Powell said in an interview on CNN that Trump had turned away from the Constitution and that he was a habitual liar.
“We have a Constitution. We have to follow that Constitution. And the president's drifted away from it,” said Powell, who made clear that, like in 2016, he would not vote for Trump for president and instead planned to vote for Joe Biden.
Powell was born in 1937 in Harlem, New York, to immigrants from Jamaica and grew up in the South Bronx, going on to get a bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York.
He is survived by his wife, Alma Powell, 83, and their three children.
This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com.