August 10: Colin Powell Nominated to Become America’s First Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Today in 1989

0 Posted by - February 18, 2024 - Military

Photo credits: Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images

On August 10, 1989, Four Star General Colin Powell was nominated as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President H.W. Bush.

He was the first African American and the youngest person at age 52 to hold the highest military position in the Department of Defense.  Powell was born on April 5, 1937 in Harlem, New York City.   His parents Luther Theophilus and Maud Arial Powell had immigrated from Jamaica.  

Powell grew up in the South Bronx section of New York City. In 1958, he received a BS degree in geology from the City College of New York and an Army Commission as a second lieutenant from the ROTC program.  He graduated in 1971 with an MBA from George Washington University after his second tour of Vietnam.

Powell established an outstanding military career, which included service in Vietnam as a Captain when he was injured by a Punji stake. As a Major, during his second tour of Vietnam, he survived a helicopter crash and was decorated for bravery for pulling three others from the burning helicopter crash, including Major General Charles Martin Gettys.

In the 1980’s he became senior military assistant to Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger. In 1987, he became Ronald Reagan’s National Security Adviser, and in August of 1989 he was nominated as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President H.W. Bush.

He continued as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff into the administration of President Bill Clinton until September of 1993.  He later served as the first African American Secretary of State under President George W. Bush from January 20, 2001 until January 26, 2005.

Powell was once rumored to be a potential presidential candidate.  He married the former Alma Johnson in 1962, they have three children.

Source: Black History Today

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