(WASHINGTON) – Retired General Colin Powell, the first African-American to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and later the first Black Secretary of State, will be remembered and celebrated as a statesman, warrior and pioneer Friday at the Washington National Cathedral.
While attendance is by invitation only, the private noon service will be televised nationally. ABC News and ABC News Live will feature special coverage starting at approximately 12 p.m. EDT.
1152021-Colin Powell RI by ABC News Politics
Powell died last month at age 84 of complications from COVID-19. Although he was fully vaccinated, his immune system was made up of cancer treatments, his spokesperson said.
“It’s really hard to overstate the respect Colin Powell had,” said Martha Raddatz, chief global affairs correspondent for ABC News, who has covered Powell’s career for decades. “Traveling around the world with him, it was almost like traveling with a king – but Colin Powell, of course, never acted like one.”
President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are expected to attend. Former President Bill Clinton, who was recently hospitalized with an infection, will not be present, with an aide saying, “Under other circumstances he would have been there, but he is following his doctors’ advice to rest and not. Not to travel for a month very seriously, so Secretary Clinton will be there to represent them.
The iconic cathedral is where four presidents had funerals: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush.
Tributes will be paid by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage, as well as Powell’s son Michael.
Powell broke barriers by serving under four presidents – Reagan, Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush – at the top of the national security establishment, first as Deputy National Security Advisor, then as as national security adviser. He was later appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a senior member of the United States Armed Forces and senior military adviser to the President, then Secretary of State – the first African American to hold both positions.
As Secretary of State, it was Powell who told the world that Iraqi Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat, claims that later turned out to be false. He told ABC News’ Barbara Walters in September 2005 that he felt “terrible” about the claims he made in a now infamous speech to the UN Security Council pleading for a US invasion.
When asked if he thought it had tarnished his reputation, he replied, “Of course it will. It’s a stain. I am the one who introduced it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be on my record. It was painful. It’s painful now.
“To be that example of someone who admitted their mistakes,” Raddatz said. “What an example for young people today – not only to have someone who reached such a powerful position – but who looked at himself and reflected on what he had done well and what he had done wrong. “
In his 35 years of service in the military, Powell, a decorated war hero who deployed twice to Vietnam, never made his political leanings known. Although he served in the Democratic and Republican administrations, it wasn’t until 1995 that Powell announced that he had registered as a Republican. He formally supported the candidacy of Democratic presidential candidates Lyndon Johnson, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Biden.
Former President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign brought out the political side of Powell in the later years of his life, when he called on voters not to support the incumbent Republican President, calling him dangerous to the democracy.
In many ways, Powell, the son of Jamaican immigrants who grew up in the Bronx, was the embodiment of the American dream. He is survived by his wife, Alma Powell, and his three children, Michael, Linda and Annemarie.
In an Oct. 18 statement announcing his death, his family said, “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and great American.”
ABC News and ABC News Live will feature special coverage of the memorial service starting around noon EDT.
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