While Colin Powell is being remembered as a four-star general and groundbreaking Cabinet member, Jenna Bush Hager knew him outside the spotlight as a friend of her family.
The TODAY with Hoda & Jenna co-host and daughter of former President George W. Bush reflected on Powell’s life after the man who served as secretary of state under her father and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under her grandfather died at 84 on Monday.
“He did so much as a politician but I knew him as a person,” Jenna said on the fourth hour of TODAY Monday. “… I knew his wife, Alma, who I adored and adore. And I was thinking about him as a husband and a father, but I remembered him as a man.”
Powell, who was fully vaccinated, died due to complications from COVID-19, his family said in a statement on Facebook. He also had multiple myeloma, a cancer of a type of white blood cell.
Jenna specifically recalled Powell imparting a lesson on her cousin Pierce Bush when they were on a family vacation as children.
“We once played a game of Monopoly where my cousin Pierce was a bad sport,” she said. “He was like ‘No!’ because he lost, and Colin Powell said to him, ‘Pierce,’ in this kind of deep, lovely voice, like, ‘We don’t have to be a bad sport.’
“And my cousin Pierce texted this morning, ‘I’ll never forget him teaching me sportsmanship, and I think he forgave me for my bad behavior.'”
Jenna also remembered the New York City native as a “trailblazer.” He was the first African American secretary of state in history when he served under George W. Bush from 2001-05 after having previously become the first Black national security adviser during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under former President George H.W. Bush.
“He was just such a wonderful, wonderful man, and he represents so much for our country,” Jenna said. “Sheinelle (Jones) was sitting there and she goes, ‘For all of us.’ He was the first, and I just admired him and loved him.”
“I think he was one of those kind of towering figures,” Hoda Kotb added.
George W. Bush released a statement following Powell’s death.
“Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell,” Bush said in the statement. “He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam.
“Many Presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience. He was National Security Adviser under President Reagan, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under my father and President Clinton, and Secretary of State during my Administration.
“He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man.”