“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.” his family announced in a statement on his official Facebook page. “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.”
The statement was signed, “The Powell Family.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Powell Was Born in New York to Jamaican Immigrant Parents
Powell was the child of Jamaican parents, Maud Arial McCoy and Luther Theophilus Powell, CNN reported. He was born in Harlem and raised in the South Bronx of New York City.
His father was a shipping clerk of African and Scottish ancestry, according to Bloomberg.
McCoy also had Scottish lineage per NBC News. In 2004, the publication reported Powell had been granted a heraldic coat of arms after applying to the court of Lord Lyon King of Arms.
He had received the arms on behalf of his late father since he was a member of the Commonwealth, a spokeswoman told NBC News. She added, “It’s descended to your heir forever as long as your heir has the same surname.”
2. Powell Was Also Raised by a Community of Aunts and Uncles
While speaking with Grand in 2011, Powell revealed he grew up in an “immigrant community.” He told the publication that his relatives moved from Jamaica to New York, Canada, England and Florida.
“For me, it was not just my parents, it was my extended group of aunts and uncles and cousins who kept all the kids and me in play,” he told the outlet, equating his upbringing to being in a pinball machine. He added, “All the cousins came shooting out and came bouncing down the pinball machine hitting all the bumpers and the number counters, springing off the little springs or rubber bands on the side.”
He recounted the lessons his aunts and uncles shared, telling Grand, “They said, ‘We came here with nothing. We’ve got more than nothing now, but we don’t have a whole lot. And we have expectations for your kids to do better, and you can’t disappoint us. It is not your choice about whether you go to school or not. It is unthinkable for you to drop out. It just isn’t done in this family.’ Mostly they said to us, ‘We have expectations for you, and don’t shame the family.’”
He revealed that his sister became a teacher while his cousins became, “doctors, lawyers, judges, dentists, engineers, bus drivers, subway conductors, nurses or homemakers,” with the commonality that “nobody failed.”
3. Powell Married His Wife Alma in 1962
Described by the site as a “Civic Leader,” Alma was a children’s advocate. Per AARP, she co-founded America’s Promise Alliance with Powell in 1997 and served as the chair.
She also served on numerous boards, including as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors’ Committee of Community & Friends for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and a member of President Barack Obama’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, according to her America’s Promise Alliance profile.
Her profile reported that the Birmingham, Alabama native graduated from Fisk University and studied at Emerson College, becoming an audiologist for the Boston Guild for the Hard of Hearing.
Alma also wrote two children’s books – “America’s Promise” and “My Little Wagon.”
4. Powell Was Father to 3 Kids
Powell and Alma share two daughters, Linda and Annemarie, and son Michael.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Alma was pregnant when Powell was deployed to Vietnam. “Our son, Michael, was 3 weeks old before Colin knew he had a son,” she told the outlet. Adding, “He got his mother’s letter (telling the news) before he got mine.”
Michael went into a career in civil service and “served as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission chairman under George W. Bush” according to Reuters.
Both of their daughters work in the film industry. Linda is an actress who has appeared on shows such as “Chicago Fire” and “Madam Secretary.” According to IMDb, Annemarie is a producer known for “Soap’s Most Unforgettable Love Stories” and “Walt Disney World’s 25th Anniversary Party.”
After news broke of her father’s death, Linda took to Instagram to share a throwback photo of her family. She wrote, “This was us. My heartbroken family thanks you for all your thoughts and prayers.”
5. Powell Had 4 Grandchildren
Powell and Alma have four grandchildren. Their son Michael and daughter-in-law Jane have two sons – Jeffrey and Bryan. Their daughter Annemarie also has two children with her husband, daughter Abigail and son Patrick.
After being named “one of the sexiest celebrity grandparents in America” by Grand, he told the outlet, “Am I a spoiler? They’re grandchildren; I don’t have to discipline them. I’m always there for them. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
He shared his outlook on being a grandparent, saying “the adults in the lives of children are not just the parents but the extended family” and other role models like “teachers, ministers, rabbis, neighbors.”
“The way youngsters are really going to determine whether they are going to be like you is not what you say to them,” he explained to Grand. “It’s not how you lecture them. It’s not what you teach them. It’s what they see in you.”