Name at birth: Colin Luther Powell
Colin Powell became the first African-American Secretary of State in U.S. history when he took office in 2001. Powell was a career soldier who fought in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He rose through the ranks to become a general, then became national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan. Powell became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George Bush the elder, directing U.S. 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. Powell was often perceived to be a moderate among more conservative voices in the administration. He submitted his resignation to Bush in November of 2004, shortly after Bush won election to a second term. He was succeeded as Secretary of State by Condoleezza Rice, the first African-American woman to hold the job.