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Colin Powell Fast Facts


Here’s a look at the life of Colin Powell, former US secretary of state.


Birth date: April 5, 1937

Birth place: Harlem, New York

Birth name: Colin Luther Powell

Parents: Luther Powell, shipping clerk

Mother: Maud Ariel (McKoy) Powell, seamstress

Marriage: Alma Vivian (Johnson) Powell (August 25, 1962-present)

Children: Annemarie, Linda and Michael

Education: City College of New York, B.S. in geology, 1958; George Washington University, M.B.A., 1971; National War College, 1976

Military service: US Army, 1958-1993, General

Other Facts

Powell grew up in the South Bronx, the son of Jamaican immigrants.

Powell participated in ROTC in college, leading the precision drill team and attaining the top rank offered by the corps, cadet colonel.

Military awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Soldier’s Medal and two Purple Hearts.

Civilian awards include the President’s Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal, and the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal as well as receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice.

Powell was the youngest person and first African-American to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Powell was the first African-American secretary of state.


June 1958 – Is commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army.

1960s – Serves two tours of duty in South Vietnam.

1963 – Powell is wounded while in Vietnam by a Viet Cong booby trap.

1969 – Powell is wounded again in Vietnam in a helicopter crash. He rescues two other soldiers in the crash.

1972-1973 – As a White House fellow, works for Frank Carlucci, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget under Caspar Weinberger.

1976-1977 – Commander of the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.

1979 – Executive assistant to Charles Duncan Jr., secretary of energy.

1979-1981 – Senior military assistant to the deputy secretary of defense.

1981-1983 – Assistant division commander of the 4th Infantry Division in Ft. Carson, Colorado.

1983-1986 – Senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Weinberger.

1986-1987 – Is assigned to US Fifth Corps in Frankfurt, Germany.

November 1987-January 1989 – National security adviser to President Ronald Reagan.

1989-1994 – Commander in chief of the Forces Command at Ft. McPherson, Georgia.

October 1, 1989-September 30, 1993 – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

1991 – Oversees Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

1993 – Retires from the Army a four-star general.

1993 – Is named honorary Knight Commander Most Honorable Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II.

1994 – Negotiates with Haitian military leaders for the peaceful return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ending the need for a US invasion of the country.

1995 – Publishes his memoir, “My American Journey,” with Joseph E. Persico.

1997 – Starts “America’s Promise Alliance” to promote volunteerism and improve the lives of children.

1997 – The Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies, which has since merged with the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, is established at the City College of New York.

July 30, 2000 – Gives the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in support of George W. Bush.

January 20, 2001- Is appointed and unanimously confirmed as secretary of state.

January 26, 2001 – Is sworn in as the 65th secretary of state of the United States.

February 5, 2003 – Powell addresses the United Nations Security Council to present the United States’ case against Iraq under UN Resolution 1441 regarding weapons of mass destruction.

December 15, 2003 – Undergoes surgery for prostate cancer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He was diagnosed with the disease earlier in the year.

November 15, 2004 – The White House announces President Bush has accepted Powell’s letter of resignation dated November 12. The letter states he will remain in office until his successor is confirmed.

January 26, 2005 – Powell’s resignation becomes effective with the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice.

2005 – Joins the California venture capital firm of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers as a “strategic limited partner.”

March 2006 – The National War College Foundation establishes the Colin Powell Chair for National Security, Leadership, Character and Ethics.

Summer 2007 – Begins to speak out against the Bush administration’s decision to go war against Iraq, the increase in troop strength in Iraq and the treatment of prisons at Guantanamo Bay.

January 20, 2009 – Is one of the honorary co-chairs of President Barack Obama‘s inauguration. Powell endorsed Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.

February 3, 2010 – Powell reverses his stance on gays and lesbians in the military; his opposition to homosexuals in the military helped lead to the original “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the 1990s.

2012 – Publishes a second memoir, “It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership,” with Tony Koltz.

October 7, 2018 – Powell, along with former secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright makes a cameo appearance on the CBS show “Madam Secretary.”

June 1, 2019 – Along with his wife Alma, Powell receives the Lincoln Medal, an award given by Ford’s Theatre Society. The society celebrates those who embody the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln.

January 10, 2021 – Following the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, Powell says he no longer considers himself a Republican.

Article Topic Follows: National-World

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