ATLANTA — Before his death Monday, Colin Powell, 84, inspired generations of Americans who served in the military — including state Rep. Derrick Johnson.
“He was the true epitome of what military leadership or leader just in general, understanding duty, honor and country,” Jackson said. “We lost a great American hero.”
Jackson spoke not as a lawmaker but as a former naval officer. He told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson that Powell visited his warship in 1996 to speak to officers with the U.S. Navy.
“He would tell all officers that never compromise on your principles, never compromise on your values. And always lead with a steady hand,” Jackson said.
Powell’s family said he died due to COVID-19 complications. He was fully vaccinated against the virus but was also immunocompromised.
“His commitment was to the country, he was very pleased and honored to be an American, so he felt his first duty was to the country,” said Dr. Louis Sullivan, former health and human services secretary.
Powell served as commander in chief of the army forces command at Fort McPherson in Atlanta in the late ‘80s.
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He was also stationed at Fort Benning early in his Army career and spoke often about overcoming discrimination.
“The post might be integrated as Fort Benning was, but not the community around Fort Benning and I was in the first group of Black officers who integrated into the Army after segregation really ended,” Powell said in a previous interview.
He would go on to become the first Black Joint Chiefs of Staff and first Black secretary of state.
In 2003, he made the case to the United Nations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Two years later, Powell said he regretted the presentation.
“The fact that Colin Powell gave a speech, which proved to be incorrect, was certainly not because he was trying to deceive anyone. He was relying on the best available information,” UGA professor Charles Bullock told Johnson.
Powell’s loss is being felt across the country, and especially by those who were molded by his legacy.
“He made some tough decisions. And, and that taught us all in terms of him being our role model,” Jackson said.
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