WACO, Texas – The death of Colin Powell has many mourning across the country because of the many accomplishments he made as the first African-American Secretary of State.
Powell broke many barriers for African-Americans and many others because of his leadership and his will and need to serve.
Powell was the first African-American to serve in two categories – Chairman Joint Chief of Staff and Secretary of State.
24-year Air Force Veteran Erica Johnson says she served while Powell was Chief of Staff. She says his leadership is a characteristic that has and will continue to impact her life.
“Even now as I take some classes, his way of leadership is in a class that I am taking for leadership development,” Johnson said. “He was a person that was like, ‘Look, if you are going to make mistakes, just learn from them and move forward.'”
Johnson says the positions Powell has held in the United States is a reminder that anyone can accomplish anything regardless of where you come from.
“He comes from an immigrant family, and he made it to the Secretary of State of this country,” Johnson said. “If anybody who feels like it can’t be done in our community, you should think again.”
During Powell’s life, he earned several military and civilian awards – including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and NAACP Image Award.
Twelve-year Army veteran Syrenthia Rice says because of Powell’s leadership, she was able to enjoy her time in the military.
“All soldiers liked him. That’s one thing I can say. It wasn’t just the black soldiers, but, again, being African-American and four-star general, we knew that we had a voice at the top.”
Rice says every role Powell had, he was great at it – even when he went into politics. Powell served as the 65th Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005.
“He made that difference. He was a tremendous commander general,” Rice said.
Powell died at the age of 84 due to complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed. The White House lowered the flag to half staff to honor his life on Monday.
(BrenShavia Jordan contributed to this report.)