Colin Powell, a decorated four-star general who became the first Black secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was honored in a funeral service Nov. 5 at the Washington National Cathedral.
Powell died in October from complications related to COVID-19.
Before the funeral began, the PBS NewsHour ‘s Nicole Ellis hosted special coverage that explored Powell’s long legacy, from his rise through the ranks in the military, his involvement in justifying the Iraq War and what his achievements meant for the country and the Black community. She was joined by Los Angeles Times Executive Editor Kevin Merida, military historian Richard Kohn and PBS NewsHour correspondent Nick Schifrin.
Watch the NewsHour’s coverage of the funeral service in the video player above.
Richard Armitage, who served as Deputy Secretary of State during the George H.W. Bush administration, while Powell was Secretary of State, paid tribute to Powell during the Friday funeral service. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who preceded Powell in the role and served under the Clinton administration, paid tribute during the service, as will Powell’s son, Michael Powell.
Powell served Democratic and Republican presidents in times of both war and peace, and earned a reputation as a trustworthy and fair leader. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Powell rose to the rank of four-star general and in 1989 became the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In that role he oversaw the U.S. invasion of Panama and later the U.S. invasion of Kuwait to oust the Iraqi army in 1991.
He was the son of Jamaican immigrants and grew up in Hunts Point, a diverse neighborhood in the Bronx. His 35-year Army career began in the Reserve Officers Training Corps Program, or ROTC, at the City College of New York.
He became a platoon leader in Cold War Germany, then served twice in Vietnam. He rose quickly to become the country’s fourth Black four-star general and, by the end of the Reagan administration, the first Black national security adviser.
His reputation and legacy was forever stained, however, when he appeared in front of the United Nations and cited faulty evidence that Saddam Hussein had secretly stashed away weapons of mass destruction, as part of the justification of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
For more on Powell’s life and legacy: