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Colin Powell: A Few Personal Memories

Jeff Hall

Posted on October 19, 2021 17:08

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I worked at the White House back in 1987-88, when Colin Powell was President Reagan's National Security Advisor. I met Colin Powell a few times and want to add to all the praise being showered upon him. He was a total class act, completely unpretentious. He will be missed.

Back in 1987, I was honored to be selected to serve a year as something called a White House Fellow.  The White House Fellows program was established in 1964 by LBJ.

The purpose of the program is to give young Americans early in their careers a chance to get first-hand exposure to the inner workings of the federal government, working for White House officials and cabinet secretaries for one year.

The theory is that this exposure will help develop better leaders when these White House Fellows go back to wherever they came from. Colin Powell served as a White House Fellow under President Nixon, after he returned from Vietnam.

Colin Powell credits the program for much that followed. As everyone knows, Powell served as National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State.

The genius of the program is that it's completely nonpartisan. It's completely normal for Democrats to serve in Republican administrations and vice versa.

Anyway, while I was a White House Fellow, every week we had a meeting with a different leader -- elected officials, agency chiefs, military and national security personnel, program administrators, journalists and more.

Colin Powell was our guest one week. He was, at the time, President Reagan's National Security Advisor.

I can't recall exactly the conversation, but Colin Powell and I got into it -- in a good way. Something said caused an outburst of laughter, I do remember that.

Some months later, Colin Powell and I crossed paths inside the Old Executive Office Building, next to the White House. As we were crossing paths, General Powell called out to me: "Hey, Jeff." 

I was quite surprised -- and of course, delighted. Those walking with me were amazed: "YOU know COLIN POWELL?" For some reason, Colin Powell remembered me by name.

Fast forward to 1995. General Powell wrote a book, My American Journey. By then I had started some community newspapers in West Los Angeles. One day I got a press release saying Colin Powell would be doing a book signing in Century City. I was invited to cover the event.

One of my teammates at the time, Alvin Coats, is African American. He practically begged me to figure out a way to include him. I sent a note to Colin Powell's people telling them who I was and that Alvin (my photographer) and I would be in attendance.

After giving his remarks, Colin Powell opened it up for questions. While all the other reporters were shouting out to be recognized, I quietly held up my pen. Colin Powell scanned the room, pointed at me and said: "Jeff."

My buddy Alvin just about had a stroke.

I asked a question about the role of media in setting the tone for America's culture -- after all, West LA is show-biz country -- and Powell's answer -- "take more responsibility" -- got carried on all local TV news channels that night.

Alvin and I got in line. I still have my signed copy of the book.

 

 

Jeff Hall

Posted on October 19, 2021 17:08

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Powell died of COVID-19 complications while battling cancer on Oct. 18, 2021.

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