Alma Powell, the wife of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, is escorted by U.S Army Gen. Allan M. Pepin, commanding general of Joint Task Forces, after funeral services for the former secretary of state at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on November 5, 2021. Powell died October 18 at age 84 of complications from COVID-19, after a battle with brain cancer. Photo Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Former Secretary of State and war hero Colin Powell was remembered at his funeral Friday not only for his leadership but his thoughtfulness as a father and friend along with finding clarity in difficult circumstances.
President Joe Biden and former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, along with former first lady Hillary Clinton all attended the funeral at the Washington National Cathedral for Powell, the first African American head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
His son Michael Powell, the former head of the Federal Communications Commission said he was contemplating leaving the post because of the criticism he was receiving from the press -- until he emailed his father.
"The response was swift," Michael Powell said. "'Powells don't quit. People will long forget the issues you're dealing with. They will never forget how you conduct yourself.'"
Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state under Democratic President Bill Clinton, talked about her 25-year friendship with Powell, serving under the administration of two different parties.
"On policy, the general and I didn't always reach the same conclusions," Albright said. "He would later recount that one of my comments almost gave him an aneurysm. Although we were the same age, we were shaped by different experiences and had different ideas and represented different departments.
"But over the past quarter-century, we also became very close friends. The reason is that beneath that glossy exterior of warrior-statesman was one of the gentlest and most decent people any of us will ever meet."
Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, talked about Powell's sense of humor and his penchant for "escaping" his security detail. He talked about their friendship of nearly 40 years highlighted by a regular Sunday greeting when Powell would tell him he was in "a state of grace."
"I would respond that same opening, If you're not in a state of grace, who among us is," Armitage said.
The casket carrying Powell arrived at the cathedral late Friday morning, and a steady throng of mourners and dignitaries arrived to honor the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Also in attendance are Secretary of State Antony Blinken, former holders of the post Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice and Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley.
Former President Bill Clinton, who was recently discharged from a California hospital after an illness with an infection, did not attend.
Powell died at the age of 84 on Oct. 18 from complications due to COVID-19. He had also been fighting multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, the treatment for which made him more vulnerable to COVID-19, even though he was fully vaccinated.
Powell was the first Black American to be secretary of state and served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and White House national security adviser.
Powell was secretary of state under former President George W. Bush and rose through the ranks at the Pentagon in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were in the White House.
"I remember the first time I ever met him, he was probably one of the most professional, dedicated, loyal, enthusiastic people I've ever been around," retired Army Sgt. Jack Tilly told WJLA-TV.
"Fast forward like 10 or 15 years, I was a sergeant in the Army and I met him again, I met him a couple of times -- he was Secretary of State and he was the same way, he hadn't changed a bit."