African-American Heroes
Colin L. Powell

Entered Service: June 1958


On Jan. 20, 2001 Colin Powell became the first African-American to be appointed to the position of secretary of state. Before becoming secretary of state, Powell served 35 years in the Army, achieving the rank of general and serving as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-the first African-American to do so-during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. By serving in that capacity Powell was the highest ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces, and the principal military adviser to the president of the United States, the National Security Council, and the secretary of defense. Additionally, he was also the first African-American national security advisor to the president of the United States. Powell began his military career in the Reserve Officers Training Corps program at the City College of New York and received his commission upon graduation in June 1958. Currently, Powell uses his military and diplomatic skills in representing our country and its interests in the Global War on Terrorism. The secretary has also led the State Department in major efforts to solve regional and civil conflicts throughout the world, enhance U.S. trade and business and fight global infectious disease around the world, especially the HIV/AIDS pandemic.