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Joe Biden, Jimmy Carter and Other Former Presidents Remember Colin Powell: 'Unmatched Honor and Dignity'

·6 min read
Joe Biden, Jimmy Carter and Other Former Presidents Remember Colin Powell: 'Unmatched Honor and Dignity'

Calling the late four-star general "a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity," President Joe Biden said he and his wife, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden were "deeply saddened" by the passing of Colin Powell , whose family announced on Monday had died from complications of COVID-19.

Powell, the first Black U.S. Secretary of State, was 84.

Biden, 78, noted that he had worked with Powell "closely" when he served as National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as Secretary of State.

"Having repeatedly broken racial barriers, blazing a trail for others to follow in Federal Government service, Colin was committed throughout his life to investing in the next generation of leadership," Biden's statement read.

For more on Colin Powell and other top stories, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

The statement continued: "Above all, Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times."

And, the current president added, he shared Biden's love for fast cars.

"He could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody's business—something I learned firsthand on the race track when I was Vice President," the statement read. "And I am forever grateful for his support of my candidacy for president and for our shared battle for the soul of the nation. I will miss being able to call on his wisdom in the future."

RELATED: Remembering Former Secretary of State Colin Powell's Lengthy Career: 'A Great American'

Joe Biden, Colin Powell
Joe Biden, Colin Powell

Darrian Traynor/Getty Images; Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images Joe Biden (left), Colin Powell

Powell served in former President George W. Bush's Cabinet from 2001 to 2005. Prior to his White House tenure, Powell — a four-star general — was the 12th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A lifelong conservative, Powell said last June that he would be voting against Republican Donald Trump in the 2020 election, just as he did in 2016.

"I'm very close to Joe Biden on a social matter and on a political matter," Powell said at the time. "I worked with him for 35, 40 years, and he is now the candidate and I will be voting for him."

Powell made headlines again in January, when he said he could no longer call himself a Republican following the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.

RELATED: Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell Tells Republicans to 'Get a Grip' on Fear of Standing Up to Trump

In a statement posted on Powell's Facebook page Monday, his family wrote: "General Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away this morning due to complications from Covid 19," adding, "he was fully vaccinated." Powell was reportedly also battling a form of blood cancer when he died, according to outlets including the New York Times.

In her own statement, Vice President Kamala Harris recalled her most recent meeting with Powell.

"I last saw and spoke with Secretary Powell in July, at a dinner honoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel," Harris, 56, wrote. I was reminded then how he always showed the world the best of who we are. He upheld the highest standards, representing our nation with dignity, grace, and strength."

Former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush expressed their condolences in a statement issued Monday.

"Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell," Bush, 75, said in the statement. "He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam. Many Presidents relied on General Powell's counsel and experience. He was National Security Adviser under President Reagan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Under my father and President Clinton, and Secretary of State during my Administration."

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library also expressed the former president's sadness at Powell's passing, sharing a photo of former President Carter, his wife Rosalynn, and Powell taken in Haiti in 1995.

"Former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell joined President and Mrs. Carter along with Sam Nunn (D-GA) on a trip to Haiti Feb '95 to monitor the election," a tweet posted by the library read. "Our condolences go out to the Powell family on his passing."

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also issued a statement, calling Powell "a courageous soldier, a skilled commander, a dedicated diplomat, and a good and decent man."

In a press conference hours after the news of Powell's death became public, current Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the four-star general's career was "legendary" at the department.

"Today is a sad day for us here at State, especially for all those who worked for and with Secretary Powell, and we'll never forget the experience," Blinken, 59, said. "Our thoughts are with Alma Powell and the entire family today, to everyone who loved him."

Blinken continued: "Colin Powell dedicated his extraordinary life to public service because he never stopped believing in America. And we believe in America in no small part because it helped produce someone like Colin Powell. Thank you, Mr. Secretary."

In his own statement, former President Barack Obama wrote that Powell "helped a generation of young people set their sights higher."

"He never denied the role that race played in his own life and in our society more broadly. But he also refused to accept that race would limit his dreams, and through his steady and principled leadership, helped pave the way for so many who would follow," Obama's statement read.

Obama's statement further acknowledged Powell's 2008 endorsement of his first presidential campaign, when the general was asked to comment on conspiracy theories that Obama, now 60, was Muslim.

colin powell
colin powell

Martin H. Simon/Pool via Bloomberg Obama And Powell Meet To Press Senate On Nuclear Treaty

"The correct answer is, he is not a Muslim; he's a Christian," Powell said at the time. "But the really right answer is, 'What if he is?' Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?"

From Obama's statement: "That's who Colin Powell was. He understood what was best in this country, and tried to bring his own life, career, and public statements in line with that ideal. It's why, for all the battles he fought and problems he solved, Michelle and I will always look to General Powell as an example of what America – and Americans – can and should be if we wish to remain the last, best hope of earth."

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