Everything We Know About Colin Powell's Wife, Alma

Friends describe her as "smart, intuitive, and witty" and "a woman who speaks her mind — and importantly, she has one" (via The Washington Post). Alma Powell, born Alma Vivian Johnson, is a native of Birmingham, Alabama, where her father was a high school principal. After graduating from her dad's high school, she went to Fisk University in Tennessee and received her B.A. degree, before going to Emerson College to study speech pathology and audiology. She would later work at the Boston Guild for the Hard of Hearing as its staff audiologist (via America's Promise Alliance).

Alma met the young Colin Powell on a blind date in her hometown. The Washington Post notes that because of her father's position, the future head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff impressed fellow soldiers when he told them he was courting her. The couple eventually married within a year of meeting (via Vanderbilt).

Alma spent more than three decades of their marriage moving from one base to another, both within the United States and overseas. When her husband returned to work in the Pentagon, she took up work at the National Red Cross — first as Army liaison, and then when Powell became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, she was named Advisor to the Red Cross of the Military District of Washington.

Against the idea of a Colin Powell presidency

Alma Powell was prepared to move more than 20 times in 31 years while her husband was active in the military, but there was one thing she was not prepared to do — and that was stand by him if he decided to run for president of the United States. In "Bush at War" by Bob Woodward, Alma is quoted as telling her husband in 1995 that "If you run, I'm gone. You will have to do it alone." Her biggest fear was that her husband, who was by then a retired four-star general, would die at the hands of someone who didn't want to see a Black man as president. At that time, Powell's cousin Bruce Llewellyn had revealed that "Colin really wants to run. But Alma is adamant. She's totally against it" (via Independent). 

While the retired general never made a bid for the presidency, CNN reports that his disillusionment with the GOP and the party's increasing shift to the right saw him mount an active campaign to get Democrats in the White House, and he endorsed Barack Obama's candidacy for president. It should probably come as no surprise, then, that Alma Powell was named to Barack Obama's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities between 2010 and 2012 (via America's Promise Alliance).

Alma Powell is a civic leader

Alma Powell is as well regarded as her husband, Colin Powell, was during his lifetime. Aside from her work with the Red Cross, she has served as Vice Chair for one of the Committees for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and was chairman of the National Council of the Best Friends Foundation. But Alma is best known for working for the advancement of children and young adults as Chair of America's Promise Alliance, an organization dedicated to helping young people reach their full potential. She even wrote two children's books, "My Little Wagon" and "America's Promise" (via America's Promise Alliance).

Alma has received numerous awards and accolades for her work, including an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Emerson College in Boston and an Honorary Doctor of Humanities from Shenandoah University in Virginia. She also received the Edward A. Bouchet Legacy Award from Howard University.