Powell was born in New York City in 1937 and was raised in the South Bronx . His parents, Luther and Maud Powell, immigrated to the United States from Jamaica . Powell was educated in the New York City public schools, graduating from the City College of New York (CCNY), where he earned a bachelor's degree in geology. He also participated in ROTC at CCNY and received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in June 1958. His further academic achievements include a Master of Business Administration degree from George Washington University . 
Powell served as assistant commander and deputy commander of infantry divisions in Colorado and Kansas before returning to Washington to become senior military assistant to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, whom he assisted during the invasion of Grenada and the air strikes against Libya. Powell was called upon to testify before Congress in private session about the covert shipment of American arms to Iran; he was one of only five persons in the Pentagon who knew about the operation. Powell was not implicated in any wrongdoing in the matter.
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