The life and local legacy of General Colin Powell

Chuck Hagel remembers Colin Powell
Chuck Hagel remembers Colin Powell(Brent Weber)
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 5:52 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - “A heroic figure when you think about legends of American history, except, it was a legend in our time,” Dr. Ladi Kukoyi, Executive Director Birmingham VA Health System said about the late General Colin Powell.

Gen. Powell died Monday morning due to complications from COVID-19 according to his family. He was 84-years-old.

But during his lifetime, Gen. Powell’s connection to Birmingham was one bound by love.

Gen. Powell married Alma Johnson Powell,  a Birmingham native, in 1962 at First Congressional Church in College Hills, according to a Facebook post by Alma’s home church, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Birmingham.

Our sincere condolences to the Colin Powell family. Little known historical fact: Alma Johnson Powell, wife of Colin,...

Posted by St. Mark's Episcopal Church Birmingham on Monday, October 18, 2021

Dr. Ladi Kukoyi said Powell made an impact locally.

“Whenever Gen. Powell would come by in the 90′s he would stop by our hospital to say, ‘hi’ to the veterans; caring for his troops, even after he had left the military. And, that’s the kind of guy he was,” Kukoyi reminisced.

That impact Gen. Powell has had is vast.

“He is a man that broke so many barriers,” said Kukoyi “I remember I was in high school in Nigeria, on the other side of the world, when I saw this guy wearing his uniform, stride into the Oval office back during the Gulf War. He was a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff first, that’s the first time I ever heard of General Powell.”

Gen. Powell was the first African American National Security Advisor, the first African American, and youngest Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush and later, the first African-American Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.

“I remember him talking about growing up, the skinny child of Jamaican immigrants in New York. He talked about the fact, in his autobiography, that in his neighborhood most people he went to high school with didn’t make it out. And, he wondered what made him different from the rest. By the grace of God, by the hard work, by the fellowship of our parents and our community we can make it.”

Kukoyi says the entire VA healthcare system sends their condolences to the Powell family.

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