Colin Powell honored by Wisconsin leaders, 'the ultimate patriot'

Wisconsin joins those tributes for Colin Powell. President Joe Biden ordered flags fly at half staff as people honor America's first African American secretary of state.

Powell, former Joint Chiefs chairman and secretary of state, died Monday, Oct. 18 from COVID-19 complications. In an announcement on social media, the family said Powell had been fully vaccinated. He had also been treated over the past few years for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. He was 84.

Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas ran into Colin Powell when Lucas lead security for Major League Baseball.

"General Powell was up in New York and in attendance and just had the privilege of being in his person," said Lucas. "A man of honor, integrity and how he just truly inspired you through his presence, as well as, certainly, his persona."

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University of Wisconsin System Interim President Tommy Thompson served in President George W. Bush’s Cabinet with Powell, writing: "General Colin Powell was an exemplary leader who I had the privilege of serving with as a member of President George W. Bush’s Cabinet. To know General Powell was to respect him and his intellect, experience and common-sense wisdom. He was a consummate solider for our country from the start to the finish. His aim was to make the world a better place. I worked with him to help establish the Global Fund in 2002 that has provided life-changing and life-saving treatment for people in poor nations afflicted with aids, tuberculosis and malaria. We took the idea to President Bush, and with General Powell’s advocacy, we helped make this idea from Kofi Annan of the UN a reality. The Global Fund partnership has since saved 44 million lives. The country could always count on General Powell, and I was witness to his extraordinary leadership."

Retired Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner also honored Colin Powell.

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"General Powell was the ultimate patriot," said Sensenbrenner. "He was a superb military officer. He helped bring the military back into good standing with the American people after the disaster of Vietnam."

They once sat next to each other on a plane after Powell retired from the State Department, and Powell spoke about his charitable work helping young people.

"I recall one time when I was flying back to Wisconsin, by the luck of the American Airlines computer, I ended up sitting next to him on a plane and we chatted for quite a bit about the work of this nonprofit. This is a true loss to our country," said Sensenbrenner.

As the country mourns, the former secretary of state and retired general leaves a lasting legacy.

"I truly think he will go down as one of the finest military men and statesmen that ever served in our nation," said Lucas. "Truly a man of integrity."

Powell, a former Republican, spoke virtually the Democratic National Convention, which was originally supposed to be in Milwaukee.

More reaction

President Joe Biden

"General Colin Powell was a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity.  The son of immigrants, born in New York City, raised in Harlem and the South Bronx, a graduate of the City College of New York, he rose to the highest ranks of the United States military and to advise four Presidents.  He believed in the promise of America because he lived it.  And he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others.  He embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat.  He led with his personal commitment to the democratic values that make our country strong.  He repeatedly broke racial barriers, blazing a trail for others to follow, and was committed throughout his life to investing in the next generation of leadership.  Colin Powell was a good man who I was proud to call my friend, and he will be remembered in history as one of our great Americans."

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III

"On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense, I send my deepest condolences to the family of Colin Powell. He led a great American life, and his love of country shone throughout his long and distinguished career in the military and in other forms of public service.

"From his earliest days in the U.S. Army, it was clear that Colin Powell was an exceptional leader. Serving two tours in Vietnam, he earned the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Soldier’s Medal for heroism, among other military decorations. He culminated his time in uniform as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he oversaw Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm with his singular brand of sure and steady professionalism and courage.

"In and out of uniform, he earned the trust of U.S. presidents, foreign leaders, diplomats, and the American people. As Secretary of State, Colin Powell advanced U.S. values of democracy, diversity, and freedom all around the world. And through his philanthropic work, this son of immigrants raised in the South Bronx set out to expand opportunity for young people, helping them find something they do well and love doing, just as he had found in the U.S. military.

"While we mourn his loss, we also honor the profound imprint that Colin Powell has left on the United States. Generations of young leaders will continue to look to his example and his character as the foundation for their own success. 

"It is difficult to overstate the difference he made. I counted him among my best mentors and friends, and this news has left a hole in my heart.

"There will never be another Colin Powell. He made history. He made the country he loved a safer, better place. And we will forever be grateful for his leadership. 

"Our thoughts remain with his beloved Alma, his children Michael, Linda, and Annemarie, and the rest of his family at this sad and painful time. "

University of Wisconsin System President Tommy Thompson

"General Colin Powell was an exemplary leader who I had the privilege of serving with as a member of President George W. Bush’s cabinet. To know General Powell was to respect him and his intellect, experience, and common-sense wisdom. He was a consummate solider for our country from the start to the finish.

"His aim was to make the world a better place. I worked with him to help establish the Global Fund in 2002 that has provided life-changing and life-saving treatment for people in poor nations afflicted with AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. We took the idea to President Bush, and with General Powell’s advocacy, we helped make this idea from Kofi Annan of the U.N. a reality. The Global Fund partnership has since saved 44 million lives. The country could always count on General Powell, and I was witness to his extraordinary leadership."

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley

"General Powell was a courageous soldier, a dynamic leader, and a trailblazing military leader. He dedicated his life to defending our nation and rose to the nation’s highest-ranking military officer as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"As the son of Jamaican immigrants, Gen. Powell overcame mountains of adversity to grow into the man who would help shape American foreign policy for over two decades. Serving 35 years in the Army, including two combat tours in Vietnam and postings in West Germany and South Korea, Gen. Powell dedicated his life to public service, ensuring our nation’s strength, and the security of all Americans.

"During his time in public life, he exemplified dignity, integrity, and leadership. His life and career are an inspiration not only to our military service members, but to all who work to improve the lives of everyone in our country.

"Our family sends our deepest condolences to the entire Powell family and to everyone mourning his loss today."

State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee)

"Colin Powell was to my generation, what Barack Obama was to my son and his contemporaries. He helped Black people, he helped all of us, understand what was possible when we make a conscious decision to only see the individual. In a nation where race or politics have been flashpoints for division, Powell was able to move effectively through both realities. General Powell made the rest of us want to be better human beings. While acknowledging his many historic "firsts", I am drawn to how he made me feel about my country, and his insistence that there was a place for all of us to be of service. I extend my deepest condolences to his family and thank them for the many years they shared him with us."

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