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Colin Luther Powell, KCB (Honorary), MSC, (born April 5, 1937) is an American statesman and retired General in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005), serving under President George W. Bush. He was the first African American appointed to that position. As a General in the United States Army, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993), holding the latter position during the Gulf War. He was the first and, so far, the only African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Colin Luther Powell was born on April 5, 1937 in Harlem, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan in 1937 to Jamaican immigrant parents Luther Theophilus Powell and Maud Arial McKoy and was raised in the South Bronx. He also has Scottish, Irish, and other ancestries. Powell attended Morris High School, a former public school in The Bronx, New York City, from which he graduated in 1954. While in school, he worked a local shop where he picked up Yiddish from the shopkeepers and some of the customers. He remembers some of his Yiddish to this day. He gained a bachelor`s degree in geology from City College of New York attaining a "C" average, according to his 2006 graduation address at Marymount University. He later obtained an MBA from The George Washington University after his second tour in Vietnam in 1971. In 1962, he married Alma Johnson Powell, who is now the co-chair of America`s Promise. He is the father of Michael Powell, the former chair of the Federal Communications Commission.
Powell`s first name is fairly common in the United Kingdom and Ireland but rare in the United States. He pronounces his name "KOH-lin." Public officials and radio and television reporters have used Powell`s preferred pronunciation.
While at City College, Powell joined the Reserve Officers` Training Corps and later described it as one of the happiest experiences of his life; finding something he loved and could do well, he felt he had "found himself." Cadet Powell joined the Pershing Rifles, the ROTC fraternal organization and drill team started by Gen. John Pershing. Even after Powell became a General, he still kept on his desk a pen set he had won for a drill team competition. After graduating from City College in June 1958, he was granted a commission as an Army Second Lieutenant. Powell was a professional soldier for 35 years, during which time he held a variety of command and staff positions and rose to the rank of General.
While serving with the Third Armored Division in Germany as a Lieutenant, he met Elvis Presley, then serving in that unit. During the Vietnam War, Powell was a captain, serving as a South Vietnamese Army advisor from 1962 to 1963. While on patrol in a Viet Cong-held area, he was wounded after stepping on a punji stake trap. He returned to Vietnam as a major from 1968 to 1970, where he first served as the executive officer for the Americal Division (23rd Infantry Division), then as the assistant chief of staff of operations for the Americal Division. In that post, he was charged with investigating a detailed letter by Tom Glen (a soldier from the 11th Light Infantry Brigade), which backed up rumored allegations of the My Lai Massacre. Powell wrote: "In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." Later, Powell`s assessment would be described as Whitewashing the news of the massacre, and questions would continue to remain undisclosed to the public. In May 2004 Powell said to Larry King, "I mean, I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai. I got there after My Lai happened. So, in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again, but they are still to be deplored."
Powell obtained an MBA from George Washington University in 1971 and then served a White House fellowship under President Richard Nixon.
In his autobiography My American Journey, Powell mentioned several officers he served under that inspired and mentored him. As a Lieutenant Colonel serving in South Korea, for example, Powell was very close to General Henry "Gunfighter" Emerson. Powell said he regarded this man as one of the most caring officers he ever served under. Emerson reputedly had a somewhat eccentric personality. For example, he insisted his troops train only at night and made them repeatedly watch the television film Brian`s Song to promote racial harmony. Powell always professed, however, that what set Emerson apart was his great love of his soldiers and concern for their welfare.
In the early 1980s, Powell served at Fort Carson, Colorado. It was there that he had a major clash with General John Hudachek, his commander. Hudachek said in an efficiency evaluation that Powell was a poor leader who should not be p
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Colin Luther Powell
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Colin Luther Powell (; born April 5, 1937) is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under U.S. President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, the first African American to serve in that position. During his military career, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989), as Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993), holding the latter position during the Persian Gulf War. He was the first, and so far the only, African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and was the first of two consecutive African American office-holders to hold the key administration position of U.S. Secretary of State.
Claim to Fame
65th United States Secretary of State (2001–2005)
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