Colin Luther Powell (/ˈkoʊlɨn/; born April 5, 1937) is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under U.S. President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, the first African American to serve in that position. During his military career, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989), as Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993), holding the latter position during the Persian Gulf War. He was the first, and so far the only, African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and was the first of two consecutive African American office-holders to hold the key Administration position of U.S. Secretary of State.
Powell was born on April 5, 1937, in Harlem, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, to Jamaican immigrant parents Maud Arial (née McKoy) and Luther Theophilus Powell. He also has Scottish ancestry. Powell was raised in the South Bronx and attended Morris High School, a former public school in the Bronx, from which he graduated in 1954. While at school, he worked at a local baby furniture store where he picked up Yiddish from the shopkeepers and some of the customers. He received his BS degree in geology from the City College of New York in 1958 and was a self-admitted C average student. He was later able to earn a MBA degree from the George Washington University in 1971, after his second tour in Vietnam.
Despite his parents’ pronunciation of his name as /ˈkɒlɨn/, Powell has pronounced his name /ˈkoʊlɨn/ since childhood, after the heroic World War II flyer Colin P. Kelly Jr. Public officials and radio and television reporters have used Powell’s preferred pronunciation.