Funeral services for former US Secretary of State Colin Powell are underway in Washington D.C. as hundreds gather to celebrate his life of military and political leadership.
Powell died October 18 after he lost his years-long battle with myeloma, a cancer of the blood. He was 84 years old and leaves behind his wife, Alma Powell, children and grandchildren.
President Joe Biden arrived at the National Cathedral and is expected to honor the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Powell made history in his decade-spanning career, becoming the first Black secretary of state and for many, one of the first Black men to assume national political leadership within a presidential administration.
Other military leaders and political dignitaries are also in attendance for the services which began at noon on Friday (November 5). Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush and former First Ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush are in attendance, along with Powell’s former colleague former Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice.
The nation’s first female Secretary of State Madeleine Albright delivered remarks at the ceremony, recalling Powell’s work ethic and “strength of his personality.”
“Beneath that glossy exterior of warrior statesman is one of the gentlest and decent people any of us will ever meet,” she said.
Powell’s son, Michael, gave a moving speech about his father, and what the Powell household was like growing up. Despite Colin Powell’s extensive military career, Michael says growing up was “un-regimented” and that his dad was notorious for wanting to fix things using “a little duct tape, some wire, and a can of spray paint.”
“My father is frequently remembered as a problem solver. While his solutions to world problems may have been elegant, his fixes around the house were a bit more kludgy,” Michael K. Powell said.
The late general’s went on to tell of how his dad’s affinity for fixing things –– even when there wasn’t really a problem to fix –– led to his beloved 1962 Chevy Impala never driving forward again.
Gen. Powell was convinced the car was making a noise, so he took the engine apart and spent a weekend tinkering “with who knows what.” Satisfied, he reassembled the engine, and started the car.
“The car whopped like a helicopter,” Michael said. “We rushed to the door and saw him backing out of the driveway with a big proud smile on his face, but that smile faded quickly when he shift the car into drive and it would never go forward again.”
Ever the thinker, Colin Powell decided to donate the car to the local fire station. To get it there, he drove it backwards for three miles on public roads “smiling at astonished drivers along the way.”
We’ll continue to update this story throughout the services which can be watched below.