Retired Gen. Colin Powell, the first African-American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. secretary of state, was remembered with a wreath-laying ceremony and a 21-gun salute Nov. 5 in the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area. Powell died Oct. 18.
Ceremony guest speaker retired Navy Cmdr. Carlton Philpot recited personal interactions with Powell, including phone calls during the establishment of the Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth. Philpot said that as he sought support and funding for the monument, he tried to maintain the reputation of Powell and the expectations for the project. He said he remembered his relationship with Powell as one of friendly respect and admiration.
“General Powell had a love for the Buffalo Soldier Monument; we talked about that in our last conversation. He said there’s no other monument here, in this country, that matches the majesty of that monument that he was very proud of,” Philpot said, noting that Powell’s prominence in the U.S. government helped awaken the sleeping history of the Buffalo Soldiers.
The ceremony took place around the Circle of Firsts bust of Powell, which was dedicated in 2014. The base of the bust is engraved with highlights from Powell’s legacy as the first African-American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. secretary of state, among his military and other achievements. Not far from Powell’s bust is the Buffalo Soldier Monument — Powell is credited with originating the idea of the monument when he was a brigadier general at Fort Leavenworth in 1982.
Trooper John Bruce, president of the Alexander/Madison Chapter – Greater Kansas City/Leavenworth Area 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association, and Col. Eric Hoggard, director of training at the Mission Command Center of Excellence, presented a red, white, and blue wreath for Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth Commanding General Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin and Philpot to place in front of Powell’s bust during the ceremony.
“Colin Powell was one of those people when he walked in a room, no matter what your rank was, he just made you feel at home, him and his wife. That’s just the type of people they are — very personable, very relaxed, laidback people that cared about people,” said Edna Wagner, executive director of the Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum in Leavenworth.
Wagner said Powell donated his uniform to the museum in 2003. The uniform, fitted to Powell’s position as a four-star U.S. Army general, is currently on display in the museum.
“For me, meeting him twice in my husband’s military career and then when I took over the museum, it just made a big difference, to get a better appreciation of what type of person he was,” Wagner said.