“Make something of your Life!”……..A phrase Colin L Powell’s parents used to recite.
Colin Luther Powell was born on April 5, 1937 in New York City’s Harlem District to Jamaican parents, Theopolis and Maud Powell.
Powell’s father, Luther Theopolis Powell grew up in Top Hill Jamaica and his mother, Maud Ariel Mckoy, affectionately known as “Arie”, was born in Westmoreland Jamaica.
After the depression had ravaged Harlem in the 1930’s, the Powell’s left Harlem when Colin Powell turned three years old. His parents and his sister Marilyn moved across the Harlem River to Hunts Point. The Powell’s decided to settle in a racially integrated neighborhood, which included a growing Jamaican population.
Colin Powell’s fondest memories of his childhood were Holiday parties where he loved to eat curry goat and white rice and listen to calypso music. It is said, that one could often hear him playing calypso music in his office at the Pentagon.
While growing up he was a good kid, who occasionally would get himself into mischief. However, for the most part of his early years he was a conscientious and willing worker.
Colin Powell attended Morris Park High School in the Bronx and when he graduated, he later attended City College of New York. At City college he decided to major in Geology.
While going to school, Powell noticed that drugs were becoming very prevalent in his community, but he never indulged and thought that doing drugs was stupid. Colin Powell felt that recreational drugs was a self-destructive habit, that wasted the life that God gave his children. He then decided to focus his energies on joining the ROTC while in College.
After graduation, he was required to serve as a soldier in the Army for a few years. Colin was delighted because he enjoyed the structured environment and team spirit that the Army offered.
In 1958, He graduated from CCNY and was commissioned to the Army. During his years in the Army he became privy to the negative feelings of inequality among races outside of his base. Although tensions were rising Powell never succumbed to any negative emotions because he did not want to harbor any toxic feelings.
His military career led him to Germany where he served two years and then returned to the United States. Upon his return, he became stationed in Birmingham, Alabama where he met his beloved Alma in November of 1961. One could say, that their meeting transcended love at first sight. Alma Johnson was beautiful, cultured, charismatic and came from a respectable family.
For Colin Powell, she made a suitable choice for a life partner. So on August 25, 1962 Colin & Alma were married.
Soon after their marriage, Powell was ordered to Vietnam, which was his first experience with direct combat. He served approximately six years in the Vietnam War, where he acquired several medals for combat and bravery.
After leaving Vietnam in 1969, he returned to school by enrolling in a Master’s Program. Colin Powell attended George Washington University, since his wife and three children had settled in Washington, DC. He graduated GWU in 1971 and then applied for a White House Fellowship. He was chosen to be a Fellow at the White House out of seventeen other Fellows.
Once his White House Fellowship ended, he received an assignment to work in South Korea where he served as Battalion Commander. By this time, Colin felt that he wanted to aspire to higher posts in the military so he turned to school again in 1975. This time he enrolled at the National War College at Fort McNair. After his attendance at NWC, his career experienced a meteoric rise. The positions he acquired are as follows:
1979- Brigadoon General
1983- Major General
1989- General & Chairman of Joint Chief of Staffs
He also served as Senior Military Advisor to Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger. It was during this time that the Iran-Contra Affair scandal surfaced, almost tainting his career. However, Powell worked with President Reagan and other members of the Government to diffuse the scandal of illegal arms dealing by the Nicaraguans, allowing him to sustain his impeccable reputation.
In November of 1987, Colin Powell had rightfully earned his place as President Reagan’s Chief National Advisor.
After thirty five years serving the Military, he decided to retire in 1993. While in the military, Colin Powell supported difficult issues by remaining true to his doctrines. For instance, when it came to gays in the armed forces, he felt that they had the right to serve, but should remain quiet about their sexual orientation. He was always adamant about the fact, that war should only be used as a last resort.
His Military Life earned him several medals and honors for his work alongside, President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. His legacy urges all citizens of America to give back to the Red, White and Blue, as much as it has given to them.
In conclusion, I believe it’s fair to say, that Colin Luther Powell more than heeded the words his Jamaican parents often recited, “Make something of yourself!”
He has exceeded his parents’ expectations of him by being the highest ranking minority to reign in the upper echelons of American Government.
Colin Powell has fought political demons, personal battles and has remained a champion through each challenge. Which only reinforces his mantra, “No matter what, I’m always a soldier first!”
For all your accomplishments that have managed to motivate Jamaicans, African Americans and People all over the world, the Jamaican Hall of Fame salutes you!