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Colin Powell

former US secretary of state, 2001-2005

Colin Powell became the first African-American Secretary of State in US history when he took office in 2001. He was a career soldier who fought in the US Army during the Vietnam War, and rose through the ranks to become a general, eventually becoming national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan. Powell became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George H. W. Bush, directing US forces during the first Gulf War. Powell retired in 1993 and published his autobiography, My American Journey, in 1995. After years on the lecture circuit, he was chosen by George W. Bush to be Secretary of State in 2001.