General Colin L. Powell was sworn in as the 46th Secretary of State on January 20, 2001 after being unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Until he was confirmed, Powell was the chairman of America’s Promise – The Alliance for Youth, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing people from every sector of American life to build the character and competence of young people.
In January 1997, President Clinton appointed Powell to serve as General Chairman of The President's Summit for America's Future, a summit on volunteerism held in Philadelphia in April 1997.
Prior to that, Powell devoted two years to writing his autobiography, My American Journey. He also has served on the boards of a number of non-profit organizations including Howard University, the United Negro College Fund and The Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
A four-star general who served for 35 years in the Army, Powell held the highest military position in the Defense Department, serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1989 to September 1993 under both presidents Bush and Clinton. During that period, he oversaw American military operations in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and 27 other international crises. He retired from the Army in September 1993.
Powell's military awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. His civilian awards include two Presidential Medals of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal. He also was granted an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth.
Powell was born on April 5, 1937 in New York City. His parents, Jamaican immigrants Luther and Maud Powell, raised him in the South Bronx. He attended New York City public schools, graduating from Morris High School and City College of New York, where he earned a bachelor's degree in geology. At CCNY, he participated in ROTC and received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in 1958. Powell subsequently earned a master's degree in business administration from George Washington University.
Powell is married to the former Alma Vivian Johnson. They have three children and two grandchildren. Powell's son Michael is chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.