Powell served two tours of duty in Vietnam, and as a battalion commander in Korea. He later commanded the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and V Corps, United States Army in Europe, and was Commander in Chief of Forces Command, headquartered at Fort McPherson, Georgia. General Powell was the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1, 1989 until September 30, 1993, serving under both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.
General Powell has been the recipient of numerous U.S. military decorations, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart. His civilian awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and an honorary knighthood (Knight Commander of the Bath) from the Queen of England. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1993.
Between 1997 and 2001, retired General Powell served as founding chairman of America's Promise, an organization challenging Americans to make children and youth a national priority.
In January, 2001, General Powell was selected by President George W. Bush to serve as his Secretary of State. He was the first African-American to hold this high office in the United States Government. Powell stepped down from the position after President Bush's reelection to a second term. His four year tenure as Secretary of State was marked by disagreements with other Administration officials over policy. Regardless of these disagreements, Secretary Powell remained a loyal servant of the Bush Administration and an eloquent spokesman for the Administration in international affairs.
Powell left his position as Secretary of State with the admiration and respect of people around the world. The following quotation from a February 20, 2004 address at Princeton University provides an excellent example of Colin Powell's statesmanship:
“We must build a better future even as we deal with the security challenges before us. That is how we'll overcome those challenges, because it's not enough to fight against a negative, like terrorism. We must focus on what inspires us, on what brings the good people of the world together. We've got to fight for the positive — for liberty, for freedom, for democracy.”
Since leaving governmenrt service, Secretary Powell has assumed a number of private-sector positions. In July, 2005, he became a strategic limited partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a silicon valley venture capital firm. He has become a more active participant at The Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies, established in his honor by his alma mater, the City College of New York in 1997. In May, 2006, Powell will succeed Henry Kissinger to become the 8th Chairman of the Eisenhower Fellowship Program.
Secretary Powell is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Howard University, and of the Board of Directors of the United Negro College Fund. He serves on the Board of Governors of The Boys & Girls Clubs of America and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Children's Health Fund.
Powell is married to the former Alma Vivian Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama. The Powell family includes son Michael and daughters Linda and Annemarie; daughter-in-law Jane, and grandsons Jeffrey and Bryan.