He was born on May 5, 1937 in Presbyterian Hospital. He was born, and grew up, in the South Bronx, New York. There was a big influence of drugs and gangs where Powell lived but, he seemed to steer away from all of that (source 1, page 23).
Powell’s parents were immigrants from Jamaica. His mother’s name is Muad Ariel McKoy. In Jamaica the McKoy fammily watched over sugar plantations. She came to America with her mother (Colin’s grandmother). Powell’s father’s name is Luther Theophilus Powell.
In Jamaica the Powell families were peasant farmers. Muad and Luther while in New York not in Jamaica (source 1, page 20, 21).
Colin Powell is a smart man. Surprisingly when he was in fourth grade he was in the slow class. When he attended Junior High School, he went to an all male school. He did well academically but he was over looked by his parents because his sister, Marilyn Powell, always did better. He attended Morris High School in 1950. He was good in high school; he never got into any fights or any sort of trouble. He completed High school in 1954 (source 1, page 29, 30, 32).
Powell applied to two colleges City College of New York (CCNY) and New York University (NYU). Both accepted him but he went to CCNY because it only ten dollars a semester as opposed to seven hundred and fifty dollars a semester at NYU. Powell majored in Engendering. He finished college in 1958 (source 1 pages 32, 36).
While in college Powell joined the Recruit Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Powell said he joined ROTC because of the discipline and “The sense of comradery among a group of young men who were similarly motivated. Maybe it was the uniform.” Another reason he said he joined is because of the association with the military [source 2 (interview page 1) (biography page 1)]. While Powell was in ROTC, he was in the Pershing Rifles. The Pershing Rifles showed that a cadet was more serious about ROTC than a regular cadet. The Pershing Rifles had to stay in ROTC their whole college career. They were distinguished through a yellow wrap worn on their right shoulder (source 1, page 40).
In 1987 Powell was the Nation Security Advisor to Ronald Regan. Two years later in 1989 he became the first black officer and the youngest officer to hold the nation’s highest military office, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. While the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff he “Played a role in planning and executing the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the Persian Gulf War (1991).”(Source 4, page 1)
When Powell joined the United States Army in 1958 he was commissioned a second lieutenant [source 2 (biography page 1)]. He went to Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning in Georgia. They learned a number of things but I will only list a few; they learned stuff like how to call artillery fire, how to fill out government forms, use a radio, maintain motor vehicles, and handle a prisoner of war. They did not learn any of this stuff in ROTC (source 1 pages 45, 46).
Powell asked and received orders to go to both Airborne and Ranger schools. Airborne school was a bunch of punishing humiliating and repetitive physical training. Most of this hard work was mental and the physical part was toughening for future paratroopers. Ranger school is the ultimate training. They work in the muddiest, sweatiest and most tiring and taxing in the infantryman’s life in the field. Now Powell is an Airborne Ranger, which is a big accomplishment (source 1, page 47)
In 1962 Powell was on his first tour in Vietnam, they were going to special forces camp and Powell stepped off the trail and into a punji trap. This trap set buy Vietcong, the trap is basically a hole in the ground with bamboo spikes in the hole. The bamboo spikes can go through any boot and have buffalo dung on them to make sure they are infectious. Powell felt it and pulled his foot out (the spike went through his foot and boot) and kept going soon the infection set in and he had to use a stick to walk. When they got to base, medics had to cut off the boot, his foot was purple. The medics sent him to division headquarters were there was a doctor to look at it. His foot was fine in a couple of days. He received the purple heart and a bronze star form his injury. In his second tour he was injured in a helicopter accident but, even though he was injured he saved the rest of the crew from the burning wreckage. He received the Soldiers medal. All together Powell has earned 11 decorations including the Legion of Merit [source 2 (biography page 1) (interview page 2)].
In 1989 Powell became the Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff. At Powell’s Honor Ceremony (outside on the White house lawn) George Bush did a speech and Dick Cheny made a speech about Powell’s Chairmanship. Powell spoke about a painting in the pentagon. It showed a family praying in a church because the father had to go to war. It had an inscription from the prophet Isaiah that said ‘And the good Lord God asked: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” And the reply came back: “Here I am send me.’ ” ( Source 1, page 161, 162).
Powell’s first official day as Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff was on October 1, 1989. He spent his longer days in the offices of the Chairman. People noticed Powell with the great success of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations in 1991. The Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff has not been the powerful position it has become (source 1, page 161, 165). America’s top military leader meet during World War II with the British officers to discuse allied plans. Then the National Security Act of 1947 established the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have a representative from the Navy, Army, Air Force, and Marines. (Source, page 165)
Powell retired from Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993. With his popularity he could have won the election of 1994 but he was concerned about his family’s privacy and safety.
“It wasn’t all family. I didn’t think it was the best thing for me to do at this time.”Said Powell (source 3, page 56).
Powell was a great inspiration for many people, from his life in the Bronx to the Chairman of joint Chief of Staff. At one point Powell’s book was the nation’s top seller. That shows you how much you people liked him [source 2(profile), page 1].
I really liked doing this report, I have learned a lot about Colin Luther Powell. Now I can look up to someone that has really accomplished a lot in his life.