Powell, the first Black secretary of state, passed away Oct. 18 due to complications from COVID-19 and a weakened immune system “following his struggle with multiple myeloma, a cancer that directly affects the body’s ability to fight infection,” CNBC reported.
Several former presidents provided statements to honor the military veteran, and two attended the ceremony—former presidents Obama and Bush—along with President Biden.
Madeleine Albright—who preceded Powell in his role as secretary of state—paid tribute to Powell at the service, while his son, Michael Powell, delivered a eulogy.
Powell’s legacy as a trailblazer has also been impacted by his foreign-policy decisions.
As foreign affairs reporter Terrell Jermaine Starr noted this week, Powell was regarded as an “exceptional case of Black excellence,” held in high esteem among the Black community for rising up “the highest ranks in the military.”
“But,” Starr concedes, “the 41-year-old me can’t acknowledge this reverence without also acknowledging the tens of thousands of people who died because of it,” referring to the Iraq invasion.
Powell famously claimed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Though later regretting his involvement, as Starr notes, Powell’s “dishonesty in the service of war” emerged in previous overseas battles.
The military official remained in the public eye after serving in the Bush administration. In recent years, he has said he no longer considers himself a Republican and criticized the party under President Trump.
He is survived by wife Alma, with whom he celebrated nearly 60 years of marriage, as well as three children and two grandchildren.