Black Interests

Tribute To Secretary Colin Luther Powell by Don Baker


In 1988, I was invited to a reception on Capitol Hill by a friend, Harold Bell, to meet some of his Republican friends in business and politics.  I knew several of the guests there and when I was introduced to Lt. General Colin Powell, I knew who he was immediately because he had just been appointed the 16th U.S. National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan in November of 1987 after having served as Deputy NSA in 1986. He would later become the first African American and 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, under former President George H.W. Bush.

With Nelson Mandela

We chatted for a while and I told him that my twin brother Ronald and I, served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He smiled and asked if I carried an M-16 rifle and I said yes and that I was a radio operator (05B). When I mentioned that I did my radio training at Fort Carson Colorado in the Rocky Mountains of Pikes Peak, he beamed. “I was stationed there also”, he said. “What a coincidence”, I said and we spoke of looking out for the rattle snakes in the desert while training and I told him the story of my Captain shooting a rattler that was near me. I asked him if he would mind taking a photo with me because I felt that he would be very famous in the future since he was the first African American to serve as NSA to the President. He brushed the famous notion off and posed for our photo. I pre-focused my camera and handed it to Harold Bell to take the photo and he did a fine job. 

Colin Powell and Don Baker

Colin Powell made a point that he did not like posing for photos and preferred candid’s, something that I filed away to memory for later if we were to ever meet again. We did meet again. It was 1989 at the Annual Joint Center for Political & Economic Studies Dinner. He was a speaker for the evening along with the keynote speaker, the late Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles, CA. I approached him after his speech and said, “You won’t remember me, but” and he cut me off and said, “We met on Capitol Hill last year and we talked about our time at Fort Carson, CO”. I was blown away by his memory of some insignificant person like myself. I definitely became a BIG FAN as of that evening. From that point forward, I made certain that I attended any function he attended that I could, in order to document this fellow U.S. Army Veteran, American hero and friend. 

I did just that. Rest In Power American Hero.

Don Baker, a native Washingtonian, is President and CEO of The Don Baker Photography Group which was founded in 1975.
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