Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell died of complications from COVID-19 on Monday, amid his battle with cancer. He was 84.
The family of the four-star general announced his passing in a Facebook post, where they also noted that he had been fully vaccinated. However, US media outlets reported that the general had already been diagnosed with multiple myeloma – a type of cancer affecting white blood cells and potentially weakening a person's immune system – prior to contracting COVID-19.
"We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American," the family said.
At the turn of the century, Powell became one of the most influential Black state leaders in US history.
Leadership is all about people. It is not about organisations. It is not about plans. It is not about strategies. It is all about people motivating people to get the job done. You have to be people-centred. - Colin Powell
Powell helped to shape foreign policy in recent decades. He was also the first Black secretary of state and, as a high-ranking military and government official, served three Republican presidents.
"Many presidents relied on General Powell's counsel and experience," former US president George W. Bush said in a tribute. It was during his presidency that Powell rose to prominence in Washington. "He was such a favorite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice."
Other world leaders also paid tribute to Powell.
Former UK prime minister Tony Blair said: "Colin was a towering figure in American military and political leadership over many years, someone of immense capability and integrity, a hugely likeable and warm personality."
Powell, who was the top US diplomat during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, would later express regret over the decision of the Bush administration, saying in an interview that it was "painful then" as it was "painful now".
Having grown disillusioned with Republican leadership, Powell later supported the presidential bid of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020.
"I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and for our shared battle for the soul of the nation. I will miss being able to call on his wisdom in the future," said President Biden, who ordered all American flags be raised at half mast.