New Orleanians with Ties React to the Death of Colin Powell

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 9:39 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleanians with close ties to retired General Colin Powell are reacting with sadness tonight over Powell’s passing.

They say the death should serve as a wake-up call for those who might think the pandemic is over.

Colin Powell was a man of many firsts, the first African-American to serve as secretary of state after achieving the rank of four-star general.

“He was one of the greatest Americans and one of the great military leaders in our history and a great statesman,” said Former New Orleans mayor and Urban League president Marc Morial.

On the campus of Southern University at New Orleans, English professor Dr. Chester Mills recalls with fondness growing up in the Jamaican section of New York City, near Powell who was his first cousin.

“He eventually joined ROTC which made him kind of invisible because every time we went to his house, Colin wasn’t there because he was training,” said Mills.

As president of the National Urban League, Morial considered Powell a friend and confidant. they were supposed to meet this week on a number of issues

“I was looking forward to seeing him because he always had so much wisdom to impart,” said Morial.

“All Jamaicans were proud. He would go to Jamaica and find himself in front of a cheering mass of people,” said Dr. Mills.

He says Powell’s father was a tailor and that’s not something the retired general aspired to and the doctor says Powell’s success shows just how far anyone can go in the United States.

“He had to do that because most Jamaicans have the situation we must go higher than I or we,” said Mills.

Powell was suffering from blood cancer and though he had been vaccinated, it’s unclear if the 84-year-old had received a booster.

“Absolutely people of his age with those conditions he would’ve been advised to take the booster shot,” said health educator Eric Griggs, MD.

“It is a wake-up call no one should take the pandemic lightly,” said Morial.

“His legacy was such that we can admire it,” said Mills.

But Mills says that Legacy was somewhat tarnished in 2003 when his cousin said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before operation desert storm.

“That sort of crimps his legacy and he admitted it,” said Mills.

Powell considered runs for the presidency in 1996 and 2000.

“I truly believe if he had chosen to run he would’ve been president, he had a rare ability to appeal to a wide cross-section of people,” said Morial.

“It was a disappointment to all of us Republicans who wanted him to run,” said Mills.

Colin Powell was 84.

Dr. Mills says his cousin didn’t run for president because there was an illness in the family that he did not want to disclose to the public. He says the last time he saw Colin Powell was at Tulane University when he came here to speak several years ago.

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