Alma Johnson was married to General Colin L. Powell for nearly 60 years. He died on October 18, 2021, due to complications from Covid-19, his family shared on Facebook. He was 84. Powell made history as the first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, as the New York Times noted.
His family shared on Facebook that Powell was fully vaccinated and was treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. According to CBS News, Alma Powell also had a breakthrough case but has responded well to treatments.
Here’s what you need to know about Alma Powell.
1. Alma Johnson Powell Was Raised in Alabama & Went to College at 16
Alma Vivian Johnson Powell was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. According to the Birmingham Black History Project, she was born on October 27, 1937, and was the oldest daughter of Mildred Elisa Bell and Robert Charles Johnson.
The organization says she graduated from Parker High School, where her father was the principal, in 1954. Powell went on to college when she was just 16. She attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1957.
Powell’s next move was to Boston, Massachusetts. She attended Emerson College for graduate school, where she worked as a speech pathologist, according to the Birmingham Black History Project, and hosted a radio show called “Lunching with Alma.”
She also worked for the Boston Guild for the Hard of Hearing as a staff audiologist, according to her bio on America’s Promise Alliance.
2. The Couple Met on a Blind Date & Married the Same Year
Alma and Colin Powell met in Boston. According to an interview she gave with The History Makers, the couple was set up on a blind date in 1962.
The couple didn’t wait long to get married. They tied the knot on August 25, 1962, in Alma Powell’s hometown.
Colin Powell was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army at the time, according to a State Department bio. The Chicago Tribune reports the couple had been married for four months when he was sent to Vietnam. Alma Powell was pregnant with their first child and went to live with her parents in Birmingham while her husband was overseas.
3. Alma Powell Is a Children’s Advocate & Author
Alma Powell has dedicated much of her time to advocating on behalf of children. She and her husband founded the America’s Promise Alliance in 1997, AARP reported. The alliance supports children’s organizations around the United States.
As explained on the America’s Promise Alliance website, Alma Powell said she believed education has the power to change the trajectory of people’s lives in part because of the example set by her own family. The website explains:
As Mrs. Powell has told audiences across the country, her grandfather was born into slavery, and her grandmother was born just after slavery ended. Against enormous odds, both earned college degrees — then saw their five children through college, too. In the process, they altered the course of her family.
For adults and children alike, Mrs. Powell’s story is a testament to the truths that are essential to our work: History is not destiny and education builds pathways.
According to her bio, Alma Powell has received multiple awards for her advocacy work. She received a Leadership Award from the Women’s Center in Virginia, the Edward A. Bouchet Legacy Award from Howard University, a 2009 Inspire Award Honoree by AARP The Magazine and was previously named Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine.
Alma Powell is also a children’s author. Her two books, “My Little Wagon and America’s Promise,” were published in 2003.
4. Alma Powell Threatened to Leave Her Husband if He Ran for President, According to a Bob Woodward Book
General Colin Powell will be remembered in the history books for his groundbreaking roles and as CBS News reported, he was respected across the political spectrum. But he never sought the nation’s highest office.
According to the book “Bush at War” by Bob Woodward, Alma Powell did not want to be the First Lady because she feared for her husband’s safety. The BBC, citing the book, reported Alma Powell threatened to leave her husband if he ran for the Republican nomination. She reportedly told him, “If you run, I’m gone.”
Colin Powell retired from the military in 1993 and wrote an autobiography called “My American Journey.” During a 1995 tour to promote the book, according to the BBC, he stated that pursuing a bid for the White House was not in the cards. “To offer myself as a candidate for president requires a passion and commitment that, despite my every effort, I do not yet have,” he said.
5. The Powells Raised 3 Children
Colin and Alma Powell raised three children together. Their first child, Michael, was born in 1963 in Birmingham while Colin Powell was serving in Vietnam, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Alma Powell explained to the newspaper that because of inconsistent mail delivery, it took weeks to share the news of the birth with her husband. “Our son, Michael, was 3 weeks old before Colin knew he had a son. He got his mother`s letter (telling the news) before he got mine.”
Michael Powell also pursued a career in civil service. He served as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in the early 2000s, according to his current bio. He also served as the chief of Staff of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, Policy Advisor to the Secretary of Defense and as an armored cavalry officer in U.S. Army. He’s now the president and CEO of NCTA – The Internet & Television Association. He is married with two children, according to Grand Magazine.
Alma and Colin Powell’s older daughter, Linda, was born in 1966. According to her IMDB profile, she became an actress in New York City.