By Natasha Brown

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell died Monday morning due to complications from COVID-19. Powell was a classic American success story.

The trailblazing former statesman and top soldier helped shape our national security.

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When President George W. Bush appointed Powell as secretary of state in 2001, he became the highest-ranking African American official in the history of the United States. A true American success story who went on to be celebrated a year later in the City of Brotherly Love.

In 2002, Powell was awarded the Philadelphia Liberty Medal for his leadership in the war on terrorism, his efforts in the Middle East, and his concern for human rights.

The Liberty Medal wasn’t Powell’s only Philadelphia connection. Years earlier in 1997, Powell became the voice of Philadelphia’s first talking pedestrian traffic signal, telling pedestrians when they could safely cross a bustling North Broad Street near Temple University. Powell’s recording played until the spring of 2006.

Powell came from humble beginnings. His parents were Jamaican immigrants who raised him in the south Bronx. After graduating from the City College of New York, he took an Army commission and served in Vietnam.

He rose in the ranks, becoming a general and was appointed the head of the national security council by President Ronald Reagan.

More honors were to follow. During the next administration, President George Herbert Walker Bush made Powell chairman of joint chiefs of staff, the highest military position in the Defense Department. Again, Powell was the first African American to hold the post.

Operation Desert Storm in 1991 made Powell an even more familiar face.

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When he retired from the Army, Powell wrote his autobiography and chaired America’s Promise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building character in young people. There was speculation he might run for president but his wife, Alma, was against it. Then Powell was called upon by George W. Bush

Though initially opposed to the idea, Powell agreed to go along with the Bush Administration’s plan to forcibly overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Using his greatest asset, his popularity with the public, he went before the United Nations and the world to build a case for invading Iraq.

“Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Later, after the United States was firmly entrenched in the war, inaccuracies were found in Powell’s speech and the Bush Administration said it acted on faulty intelligence.

Powell admitted the UN speech was a painful blot on his record and pushed for reform in the intelligence community.

“I’m so proud that I have had this chance to serve my nation,” he said.

In 2008, the long-time Republican made news when he endorsed Barack Obama for president.

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Powell spent his final years in the private sector but he remained vocal on political issues that were important to him.