Despite being born in the tough New York borough of Harlem and raised in the even tougher neighborhood known as the Bronx, the late Colin Luther Powell, only child of two Jamaican immigrants, got priceless advice, influence and even ultimatums throughout his 84 years of life by a Birmingham, Alabama native, Alfred Parker High school and Fisk University graduate, Alma Johnson-Powell.
After meeting in Boston, Massachusetts in 1962 through a blind date, the couple wed August 25th of that year. Their nuptials were widely reported through the Birmingham World, a Black-owned and -operated newspaper in the Steel City which was part of the Scott Newspaper Syndicate (SNS) of the Atlanta Daily World. The honeymoon was short. Four months late, then Second Lieutenant Powell, commissioned in 1958 as an ROTC cadet from City College of New York and graduated from basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia four years before, was deployed to Vietnam as a military advisor (combat troops had not been sent over at that time). According to published accounts, it was several weeks later that Lt. Powell learned he had become a father of his firstborn Michael. The couple also had two other children, both females, during their marriage which had just celebrated 59 years.
Thus commenced the alpha of Powell’s military odyssey. He rose through the officer ranks (1st Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant-Colonel, bird colonel and then through four levels of General officer rankings (Brigadier, Major, Lieutenant and then Four-star). Thirty-five years later, his hitch concluded as quietly as it began in with formal retirement.
Powell’s commands also included a rise to Forces Command (FORSCOM) based at East Point Georgia’s Fort McPherson in 1988 which allowed him and family to spend three years in the Atlanta area before his deployment as commander of Operation Desert Storm (interestingly, that command generated tons of news coverage with several columnists and writers suggesting that Powell was in fact, “a second Eisenhower.” Then, such references disappeared from the headlines).
Nonetheless, Republican heavyweights and even George Bush thought Powell would make a good vice-presidential running mate. Powell politely asked he not be considered and that’s where reports surfaced that the major influence behind his decision not to seek political office was his wife Alma. She reportedly threatened to leave him if he did.
He also changed his political attitude as well, to the point of putting a lot of distance between him and the party of the elephant and endorsing Barack Obama’s candidacy for president in 2007. He also lambasted former President Donald Trump as someone who “lies all the time” which influenced him to also endorse and vote for current President Joe Biden. “I certainly cannot, in any way, support President Trump this year,” Powell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” June 7, 2020. “I’m very close to Joe Biden on a social matter and on a political matter. I’ve worked with him for 35, 40 years, and he is now the candidate, and I will be voting for him.”
The announcement of Powell’s death during the early hours of October 18th stunned most of the world. It’s evidenced by the reactions on Facebook. “Life is designed by the divine to be consequential,” wrote Atlantan Larry Jennings. “General Powell stood tall in his convictions and made a positive difference in the lives of legions-both in uniform and out. He belongs to the ages now. May he never be forgotten.” “He was a man in service to his country, regardless of politics,” says Gale Fulton Ross. “He was dedicated. May he rest in peace, love and power.”
Georgia state court Judge Reverend Penny Brown Reynolds, living in Atlanta but a native of Louisiana, capsulized the Powell transition well. “You ever had one of those days? Today (October 18) is one of those days. All I have been doing is praying and asking God to be with this world. There are so many people I love and/or admire who have passed away. Lord, we need you like never before.” Atlanta writer-broadcaster Mark Lassiter described Powell with one word… “Giant.”
Last updated on October 19, 2021