On this day in 1989, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted unanimously to confirm Army Gen. Colin Powell as the nation’s 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Powell, nominated by President George H.W. Bush, assumed his duties on Oct. 1 and served until Sept. 30, 1993. At age 52, Powell became the youngest officer and the first — and, so far, only — African-American to hold the country’s highest military post. From 1987 to 1989, he had been national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan, while retaining his three-star Army rank.
Powell played a major role in planning the swift U.S.-led coalition victory over Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. During his chairmanship, the United States ousted Manuel Noriega as Panama’s dictator.
Powell was born in 1937 in New York to Jamaican immigrant parents. After college, he joined the Army, embarking on a 35-year military career. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam before holding several high-level military posts during the 1970s and ’80s.
In 1995, Powell promoted his best-selling autobiography, “My American Journey.” That fall, Powell halted speculation that he would seek the 1996 Republican presidential nomination by announcing that he would not be a candidate. In declining to run, Powell cited concerns for his family’s well-being and a lack of passion for the rigors of political life.
In 2000, President-elect George W. Bush nominated Powell to be secretary of state. He held that position until Jan. 26, 2005, when he was succeeded by Condoleezza Rice.
In October 2008, Powell endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president, citing “his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities.”
SOURCE: “MY AMERICAN JOURNEY,” BY COLIN POWELL AND JOSEPH PERSICO (1995)
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