Even with just one of his accolades, Colin Powell would have been an American legend. Instead, he piled them on, from four-star general to the first Black U.S. Secretary of State. Powell died from COVID-19 complications on Monday, Oct. 18.
In an era of vaccine contention, many Americans wonder what Powell's vaccination status was. He was a long-time Republican who revoked that title following the insurrection at the Capitol building in January 2021.
Colin Powell dies at 84, had a storied life
Powell was married to his wife Alma Johnson for nearly six decades. The year of his marriage, he was one of 16,000 soldiers sent to Vietnam by former President John F. Kennedy. Following an injury, the U.S. awarded Powell a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Later on, he won the Soldier's Medal for rescuing his comrades from a burning helicopter.
Powell won a White House fellowship in 1972, became a national security adviser under the Reagan administration in 1987, and became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush in 1989.
In 2000, he became the first Black Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. During his military tenure, Powell identified as an independent. He officially became a Republican after he was out of the military. But over the years, his politics shifted more moderate. Following the insurrection at the Capitol in January 2021, Powell renounced his Republican identification.
In a CNN interview, Powell said about the insurrection, "This is a moment of accountability to place blame on people who have done something wrong." He added, "I have no fear for our country. We'll come out of this."
Colin Powell was fully vaccinated against COVID-19
In a post on Powell's Facebook page, his family wrote, "General Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away this morning due to complications from Covid 19. He was fully vaccinated. We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American."
Powell also had a diagnosis a diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer affecting the immune system. Epidemiologists believe such diseases can cause a higher likelihood of breakthrough infections as well as more severe symptoms in COVID-positive patients. It is not known whether Powell received a booster shot.
Broadcast journalist Wolf Blitzer reflected on Powell's passing. He said that Powell was always available at the Pentagon to help reporters make sense of what was going on.
Powell is the first public figure to die from a breakthrough case.
According to the CDC, breakthrough cases—or COVID-19 cases in vaccinated individuals—are expected. "Some fully vaccinated people will get sick, and some will even be hospitalized or die from COVID-19," the CDC website says.
As of Oct. 12, more than 187 million Americans have been fully vaccinated. Powell was one of them, and his death could put a wrench in vaccine plans for people on the fence to get the shot.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to include information about Powell's multiple myeloma diagnosis, which was not widely reported prior to publishing.