Sen. Bob Casey: "General Colin Powell was a trailblazer who served the United States with valor and distinction."

PITTSBURGH (CNN/KDKA) — Pennsylvania lawmakers and military officials are remembering Gen. Colin Powell following his death from COVID-19 complications.

Powell was the first Black U.S. secretary of state. His leadership in several Republican administrations helped shape American foreign policy in the last years of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st. He was 84.

“General Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away this morning due to complications from COVID-19,” the Powell family wrote on Facebook.

Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body’s immune response, as well as Parkinson’s, Peggy Cifrino, Powell’s longtime chief of staff, confirmed to CNN. Even if fully vaccinated against COVID-19, those who are immunocompromised are at greater risk from the virus.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” Powell’s family said.

Powell was a distinguished and trailblazing professional soldier whose career took him from combat duty in Vietnam to becoming the first Black national security adviser during the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the youngest and first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush.

His national popularity soared in the aftermath of the U.S.-led coalition victory during the Gulf War, and for a time in the mid-90s, he was considered a leading contender to become the first Black President of the United States. But his reputation would be forever stained when, as George W. Bush’s first secretary of state, he pushed faulty intelligence before the United Nations to advocate for the Iraq War, which he would later call a “blot” on his record.

Bush, who appeared in Pittsburgh Monday via a videotaped speech at the Eradicate Hate Global Summit, said in a statement that Powell was “a great public servant” who was “such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend.”

Powell appeared several times over the years at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville to remember the victims of 9/11.

Pennsylvania and West Virginia leaders are sending condolences to Powell’s family and friends.

In a statement, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said, “General Colin Powell was a patriot — stepping up to serve our nation throughout his entire life starting in ROTC to his leadership as the National Security Advisor to his chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to serving as Secretary of State during one of America’s darkest days. General Powell was a great man who put his country and his family above all else, and I am grateful for his decades of service to our nation. As the Powell family grieves, I hope they know the American people are thinking of them.”

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, said, “Gayle and I are saddened by the death of General Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and longtime public servant. General Powell led by example and was the inspiration for a generation of Americans. He left behind a legacy that will live on in the hearts of those who serve our great nation. Gayle and I often refer to the five promises every adult should make to a child to help them be successful – a caring adult in their life, a safe space to grow, a healthy, nutritious start, educational opportunities, and the opportunity to give back to their community. This is a sentiment we learned from General Powell and his wife Alma through their leadership of the America’s Promise Alliance. He led our nation through difficult times and blazed a path through his leadership and service as the first Black Secretary of State, first Black national security advisor and first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His most important role was as a dedicated father, grandfather and husband. Gayle and I will keep Alma and their three children in our prayers as they mourn their loss.”

In a tweet, Pennsylvania’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said, “General Colin Powell was a trailblazer who served the United States with valor and distinction. His family is in my thoughts and prayers as the Nation mourns his loss.”

Powell is survived by his wife, Alma Vivian (Johnson) Powell, whom he married in 1962, as well as three children.

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