BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Political leaders across Alabama are mourning the death of Colin Powell, an Army general who served under several Republican presidents, eventually becoming the first Black Secretary of State under George W. Bush.
On Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey reflected on Powell’s connection to the state. His wife, Alma, is from Birmingham.
“He spent a good bit of time here in Alabama. He married an Alabamian. And General Powell made a great contribution to our United States, and we shall miss him. God’s speed,” Ivey said.
Powell’s record of service also drew strong praise among other Alabama politicians, such as Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper.
“His focus of being in service to his country whatever he was called on to do is his goal. And man, that is a valiant goal and a great opportunity for all of us to think about, the qualities of his life,” Reed said.
A longtime Republican, Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008. Alabama Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said Powell was a true leader.
“He had the candid ability even in politics, not necessarily running for office, but to go across party lines and go across racial lines,” Smitherman said. “He had a way of earning that respect of everyone.”
Smitherman said he will never forget the time he spent with Powell 20 years ago. At the time, Smitherman was coaching a youth basketball team in a national championship game while Powell was giving the keynote address at the National Governor’s Association in St. Louis.
“He really took care of us; he was proud of us being from Alabama with his wife being from Birmingham and everything. That made us feel so special. And that’s one of those lasting memories,” he said.
At Ivey’s order, all flags in Alabama will fly at half-staff throughout the week in honor of Powell.