PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island lawmakers and leaders alike are mourning the loss of Colin Powell, who died Monday morning from COVID-19 complications.
Powell, a retired four-star general who became the country’s first Black secretary of state and chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to his family.
“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” his family said in a statement.
But while the 84-year-old was fully immunized, he remained vulnerable due to his advanced age and weakened immune system. Powell had been treated over the past few years for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that impairs the body’s ability to fight infections and respond well to vaccines.
Sen. Jack Reed, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, worked closely with Powell and described him as “the epitome of selfless service, courageous leadership and uncompromising integrity.”
“He will be remembered as one of our nation’s very finest military and diplomatic leaders, and I am deeply saddened to learn of his loss,” Reed said. “A distinct honor of my life was the opportunity to work with and learn from Colin Powell. He committed himself wholly to the well-being of the United States and advised generations of presidents, diplomats, military leaders and lawmakers.”
Reed said while he is saddened by Powell’s death, he’s “grateful for his many contributions to our nation.”
“He’s the model of what we all as Americans should try to be,” Reed added. “Committed to decency, fairness and willing to fight for it.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said in a statement that Powell’s final legacy “was to put country over party at a time when it was difficult to do so.”
National Guard Lt. General Reginald Centracchio (ret.) said he knew Powell for many years.
“The thing that impressed me most was that his focus on the military was clearly what it should be, and that is to put a force together, go to war if you have to, win and get out,” Centracchio explained. “It was not intended to be an organization to change a culture in a country.”
President Joe Biden ordered all flags be lowered at the White House, State Department, Pentagon and other government buildings in honor of Powell.
“Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else—in uniform and out,” Biden said in a statement. “He will be remembered as one of our great Americans.”