Private funeral planned for Colin Powell at Washington National Cathedral

"There will be very limited seating and it will be by invitation only," spokeswoman Peggy Cifrino said.

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A private memorial service for Gen. Colin Powell will be held at the Washington National Cathedral on Nov. 5. 

Powell — America’s first Black national security adviser, first Black Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, and first Black Secretary of State — died Monday of complications from COVID-19. Powell, who was 84, was fully vaccinated but had a compromised immune system that made him more susceptible to contracting the virus.

Powell had multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer that hurts the body’s ability to fight infections. In 2003, The New York Times reported that then-Secretary of State Powell had surgery to treat prostate cancer, which was detected in its early stages.

Four presidents have had state funerals held at the Washington National Cathedral: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. “There will be very limited seating and it will be by invitation only,” spokeswoman Peggy Cifrino said of the memorial service in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.

George W. Bush Meets French President Jacques Chirac
U.S Secretary of State Colin Powell waves as he arrives in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace on June 5, 2004. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the Powell family said in a statement announcing his death.

“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,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “Above all, Colin was my friend. Easy to share a laugh with. A trusted confidant in good and hard times.”

Former president Barack Obama said he and wife Michelle Obama will always look to Powell as “an example of what America – and Americans – can and should be if we wish to remain the last, best hope of earth.”

“Everyone who worked with General Powell appreciated his clarity of thought, insistence on seeing all sides, and ability to execute. And although he’d be the first to acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right, his actions reflected what he believed was best for America and the people he served,” Obama said.

Powell was a retired four-star general, politician, and diplomat who began his career in the United States Army in 1958. He served in the Vietnam War as an adviser from 1962 to 1963 and returned to the region five years later as a major. After the war, he served as a White House Fellow under President Richard Nixon, beginning his long tenure as a valued adviser to several Republican presidents. 

He also served as national security advisor under President Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1989. Powell was then elevated to four-star general under President George H.W. Bush in 1989; later that same year, Bush selected him as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell,” Bush, 75, said in a statement on Monday. “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.”

Powell is survived by his wife Alma, son Michael, and two daughters, Linda and Annemarie.

This article contains additional reporting from Biba Adams.

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