Colin Powell

2012 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner - Arrivals

Powell in 2012, photo by Prphotos

Birth Name: Colin Luther Powell

Date of Birth: April 5, 1937

Place of Birth: Harlem, New York City, New York, U.S.

Date of Death: October 18, 2021

Place of Death: Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.

Ethnicity: African-Jamaican, small amounts of English, Irish, and Scottish, possibly other

Colin Powell was an American statesman, diplomat, and four-star general in the U.S. Army. He served as Deputy National Security Advisor, from December 2, 1986 to November 23, 1987, National Security Advisor, from November 23, 1987 to January 20, 1989, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, from October 1, 1989 to September 30, 1993, and U.S. Secretary of State, from January 20, 2001 to January 26, 2005. He was the first black Secretary of State. He was a member of the Republican Party from 1995 to January 2021.

While he was not a candidate, he received three electoral votes for President of the United States from faithless electors in the 2016 presidential election. He is the second African-American to receive an electoral vote for President, after Barack Obama.

Colin was the son of Maud Ariel (McCoy) and Luther Theophilus Powell, Jamaican immigrants who moved to the U.S. in the 1920s. He was married to audiologist Alma Powell, until his death, with whom he had three children, including lobbyist Michael Powell, who was Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, from January 22, 2001 to January 21, 2005; and actress Linda Powell.

Colin’s paternal grandfather was named Aubrey Spencer Powell (the son of Nicholas Powell and Esther Rebecca Powell). Aubrey was born in Saint Elizabeth Parish, Jamaica. Nicholas was the son of James Powell.

Colin’s paternal grandmother was Rosina Bromfield (the daughter of David Alexander Bromfield and Louisa A./Elizabeth Gordon). Rosina was born in Saint Elizabeth Parish. David was possibly the son of Sybil Phillips. Louisa was the daughter of Larchin Gordon and Rebecca Simpson.

Colin’s maternal grandfather was named Edwin Octavius McKoy (the son of Duncan McKoy). Edwin was born in Westmoreland Parish, Jamaica.

Colin’s maternal grandmother was Alice Rebecca Coote (the daughter of Charles Edward Coote and Ann Rebecca Rutherford). Alice was born in Westmoreland Parish. Charles was the son of Edward William Coote. Ann was the daughter of William Rutherford.

Colin was a cousin, to some degree, of musician Pete Wentz, through Pete’s maternal grandfather, diplomat Arthur Winston Lewis (likely through their Coote lines). Actress Kerry Washington has also said that her mother was his cousin.

In his autobiography, My American Journey, 1995, Colin wrote:

The McKoys and the Powells both had bloodlines common among Jamaicans, including African, English, Irish, Scotch, and probably Arawak Indian. My father’s side even added a Jewish strain from a Broomfield ancestor.

Bromfield is a common surname in Jamaica, and most Bromfield families are not Jewish. It is possible that Colin did have a small amount of Jewish ancestry through another line, as many people in Jamaica do.

Colin had said that he was a descendant of Eyre Coote, who was Governor of Jamaica, from 1806 to 1808. He was an Irish-born British soldier and politician. It is not clear if this line of descent has been verified/documented.

Sources: Genealogies of Colin Powell –


Curious about ethnicity

22 Responses

  1. Multiethnicchick says:

    Another mixed race person forced into being monoracial thanks to continued use of white purity concepts like the one drop rule.

  2. andrew says:

    Aubrey’s mother was possibly Eliza Bennett. Nicholas was the son of James Powell.

  3. andrew says:

    I remember, when I was younger, that I did not get why media kept calling him “black”. Standing all the time next to a tanned George W. Bush, they roughly had a similar pigmentation.

  4. Alice says:

    Powell is a Welsh surname. The Welsh appear to be a forgotten ethnicity in the US.

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