Powell was born in Harlem, New York, New York. He was raised in the South Bronx, Graduating from Morris High School in 1954. He attended City College of New York, graduating with a BS in Geology in 1958. While in college, Powell joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps(ROTC), and "found himself."
Powell's military career spanned 35 years, rising from Second Lieutenant, upon commission when he graduated college, to four Star General.
Powell was appointed National Security Advisor by Ronald Reagan, and held the post from 1987 to 1989. In 1989, President H. W. Bush selected Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
After retiring from the Army, Powell was considered a possible candidate for President. People on both sides of the aisle respected him, and he was considered for the Vice Presidential nominee for both parties in the 1992 Presidential Election. Powell eventually declared himself a Republican, but declined to run in the 1996 Presidential election in spite of polls indicating that Powell could defeat Clinton 50-38.
In 2000, Powell was appointed Secretary of State by President George W. Bush, confirmed with a unanimous vote of the United States Senate.
Powell eventually came into conflict with the administration over the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the lead up to the invasion. By 2004, there were calls for him to resign by President Bush's chief of staff, and Powell announced that he would remain until his replacement was confirmed.
Powell was seen as a moderate in Bush's administration, but his influence was limited.
Since resigning as Secretary of State, he has held a number of roles in various private firms, relating to venture capital, health care, and speaking engagements.