President Biden on Monday paid tribute to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who died earlier in the day due to complications from COVID-19, noting his many accomplishments and patriotism that “earned him the universal respect of the American people.”
“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all. Having fought in wars, he understood better than anyone that military might alone was not enough to maintain our peace and prosperity,” the president said in a statement.
“From his front-seat view of history, advising presidents and shaping our nation’s policies, Colin led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong. Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else — in uniform and out — and it earned him the universal respect of the American people,” Biden added.
Powell, who was the first Black American to serve as secretary of State and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died at the age of 84 on Monday. He had been fully vaccinated and reportedly had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of cancer.
Biden said Powell “repeatedly” broke racial barriers and was a trailblazer. The president also called Powell a “dear friend” and “a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity.”
Powell endorsed Biden in the 2020 election during the Democratic National Convention in August. Powell, a Republican, also endorsed President Obama in 2008 and said publicly he voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over President Trump in 2016.
“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,” Biden said on Monday.
Biden said he worked closely with Powell when he was a senator and Powell was former President Reagan’s national security adviser, former President George H.W. Bush’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and and former President George W. Bush’s secretary of State.
“Over our many years working together — even in disagreement — Colin was always someone who gave you his best and treated you with respect,” Biden said.
“Above all, Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times. He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business — something I learned firsthand on the race track when I was Vice President,” he added.
He noted that Powell was the son of immigrants and rose to the highest ranks of the military.
“He believed in the promise of America because he lived it. And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others,” Biden said.
Vice President Harris called Powell an “independent thinker and a barrier breaker” in a statement on Monday, saying he served the U.S. with “courage, unwavering in his belief in its principles and its promise.”
Harris recalled the last time she saw and spoke to Powell, which was in July at a dinner to honor German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“I was reminded then how he always showed the world the best of who we are. He upheld the highest standards, representing our nation with dignity, grace, and strength,” she said.
Biden on Monday ordered flags be flown at half-staff through Oct. 22 to honor Powell. Flags are to be flown at half-staff at the White House as well as on all public buildings and grounds, military posts, naval stations, and overseas embassies, consular offices and military posts for the next five days.