When I heard the news that Colin Powell passed away from complications due to COVID-19 and other underlying health issues earlier this week, I was shocked, saddened, and ultimately reflective. I remember the only time I met and briefly interviewed the iconic American military man nearly 30 years ago.

The date was July 25, 1992. It was a bright, sunny, and unmercifully hot Saturday afternoon in Leavenworth, Kansas. I was a young reporter and assigned to cover a visit from General Colin Powell. At that time, Powell was Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush. He was the first African American man appointed to the position. He was also the first African American Secretary of State. Powell would deliver a keynote address and unveil a monument dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers. During the American Civil War, the U.S. Government formed infantry regiments known as the United States Colored Troops. They eventually became known as the Buffalo Soldiers and served in the 9th and 10th cavalry of the United States Army. The Buffalo Soldiers formed in September 1866 in Leavenworth, Kansas. The African American soldiers waited for more than a century for recognition and formal acknowledgment of their dedication, contribution, and service to the American military. Powell had initially presented the idea for the monument and was instrumental in securing resources that led to the construction of the million-dollar project.

As I watched this decorated military man stroll confidently yet meticulously onto the outdoor stage, I took a deep breath. Despite being in awe, I was determined to remain the objective, and professional journalist. He stood tall on a podium a few feet away from where dozens of Buffalo Soldiers had camped more than a century ago. General Powell greeted the crowd of about 15,000 and fielded a few questions from a group of reporters. I remember asking the softball and featherweight question, “What does it mean for you to be here to dedicate the Buffalo Soldier monument?” As I look back, I chuckle and say, Wow! What a complex and probing question?!? At least I didn’t stutter or mumble when I asked it.

In his puissant and powerful voice, General Powell smiled, looked at me, and said, “The powerful purpose of this monument is to motivate us all. To motivate us to keep struggling until all Americans have an equal seat at our national table and until all Americans enjoy every opportunity to excel and to achieve their dream.” He highlighted some of his personal experiences as a career military man and the long-overdue accolades to the Buffalo Soldiers. More than 100 Buffalo Soldiers veterans attended the event; most of them dressed in ceremonial garb.

The long and stellar legacy of Colin Powell is prodigious. Despite constant criticism from Black and Brown communities for being Republican, commander Powell always stood his ground. For example, he supported the presidential runs of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. He was a loud and frequent critic of the obstreperous and abysmal presidency of Donald Trump.

At any rate, I will never forget meeting and interviewing Colin Powell. At the time, for me, a young mini Afro wearin’ journalist of color in the early 1990’s, speaking with someone who is and always will be regarded as one of the most formidable yet endearing true Americans was wondrous. It will indeed remain indelible. Rest in Peace and Power, Colin Powell.

Glenn Townes

I'm an award winning journalist based in Edison, NJ. My work has been featured in dozens of publications including, Black Enterprise magazine; ESSENCE magazine and Real Health magazine. I am also a featured...

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