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First African-American Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff

February 1, 2012 by staff 

First African-American Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff, Colin Luther Powell ( born April 5, 1937) is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He was the first African American to serve in that position.

During his military career, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987-1989), as Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-1993), holding the latter position during the Gulf War. He was the first, and so far the only, African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Colin Luther Powell was born on April 5, 1937 in Harlem, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, to Jamaican immigrant parents Maud Arial (née McKoy) and Luther Theophilus Powell. He also has Scottish ancestry.

Powell was raised in the South Bronx and attended Morris High School, a former public school in the Bronx, from which he graduated in 1954. While at school, he worked at a local baby furniture store where he picked up Yiddish from the shopkeepers and some of the customers. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in geology from the City College of New York in 1958 and was a self-admitted C average student. He was later able to earn a Master of Business Administration degree from the George Washington University in 1971, after his second tour in Vietnam.

Despite his parents’ pronunciation of his name as , Powell has pronounced his name since childhood, after the heroic World War II flyer Colin P. Kelly Jr. Public officials and radio and television reporters have used Powell’s preferred pronunciation.

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