General Powell was a professional soldier for 35 years. During that time he held many different command and staff positions. His last assignment, from October 1, 1989, to September 30, 1993, was as the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the Department of Defense.
During this time he oversaw 28 military and political crises, including Operation Desert Storm in the victorious 1991 Persian Gulf War. In 2001, Powell became the first African-American U.S. secretary of state, under President George W. Bush.
General Powell was born in New York City on April 5, 1937, and was raised in the South Bronx, New York. His parents, Luther and Maud Powell, immigrated to the United States from Jamaica. General Powell was educated in the New York City public schools, graduating from Morris High School and City College of New York (CCNY), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in geology.
He also participated in ROTC at CCNY and received a commission as an army second lieutenant upon graduation in June 1958. His further academic achievements include a Master of Business Administration degree from George Washington University.
General Powell is the recipient of numerous U.S. military awards and decorations including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with three Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Soldier’s Medal, Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart.
In April 1997, General Powell chaired the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future in Philadelphia. Since then, he has been serving as chairman of America’s Promise — the Alliance for Youth, a national organization dedicated to the advancement of the children of America. General Powell, through his work with America’s Promise, is dedicated to the fulfillment of five promises necessary for all children to become successful adults:
an ongoing relationship with a caring adult;
a safe place to be with structured activities during nonschool hours;
a healthy start;
a marketable skill through effective education;
a chance to give back through community service.
General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), is also the author of a best–selling autobiography, My American Journey, which traces his life from his birth to immigrant Jamaican parents in Harlem to his role in advising this country’s four most recent chief executives, Presidents Ronald Reagan, Geoger H. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.
FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN SECRETARY OF STATE
In 2001, then-President–elect George W. Bush nominated General Colin L. Powell as U.S. Secretary of State. The Senate easily approved the nomination, and General Powell became the first African American to hold the post. Some of his duties include serving as the President’s principal adviser on U.S. foreign policy, conducting negotiations relating to U.S. foreign affairs, and negotiating all treaties with foreign governments.
General Powell was married to the former Alma Vivian Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama. The Powell family includes son Michael, daughters Linda and Annemarie, daughter-in-law Jane, and grandsons Jeffrey and Bryan.