The Collection of the late General Colin L. Powell
The Collection of the Late General Colin L. Powell to Be Offered by Potomack Company Auctions
The Collection of the late General Colin L. Powell comes to auction Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 10 a.m. The Potomack Company auction house in Alexandria, Va., will host an in-person and online preview beginning Thursday, Nov. 3.
The family is donating 100% of proceeds to America’s Promise Alliance, formerly chaired by General Powell and later by his wife, Alma Powell, and to the Colin Powell School at the City College of New York, founded to honor General Powell, who attended CCNY.
Powell personified “the promise of America because he lived it,” said President Biden after Powell’s death last year. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell grew up in the South Bronx as a “Black kid of no early promise,” as he described himself in his autobiography.
It was only after joining ROTC while attending the City College of New York that he discovered his love of the military. After graduating, he joined the U.S. Army in 1958, and so began more than three decades of military and government service during which he rose to four-star general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.
That story and the relationships he developed are reflected in the objects that surrounded him. As National Security Adviser to President Reagan, General Powell played an important role in organizing five summits between Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, including the Moscow Summit in 1988, when Powell was presented with a Baikal shotgun from the leader of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev’s gift to Powell will be up for bidding.
Also among the lots is Powell’s Spingarn Medal, the highest honor of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for outstanding achievement by an African American.
In his autobiography, General Powell said the Army had played “a leading role in defending freedom and advancing racial justice.” He said that to remind him of that – and everyone who came into his office when he was commander in chief at Fort McPherson, Ga. – Powell hung a poster of Martin Luther King Jr. inscribed and signed to him by Coretta Scott King: “To General Powell – Accept this likeness of Dr. King as a token of my respect, esteem and appreciation for your support. With warmest personal regards.”
In addition, the auction includes a signed copy of Rosa Parks’ book, “Quiet Strength.”
Potomack is also offering an Annie Leibovitz signed and dated color photo of General Powell. The portrait was featured in Vanity Fair’s 1991 Hall of Fame. A similar Leibovitz portrait of Powell was included in the National Portrait Gallery’s 2008 exhibition of Leibovitz’s work.
When Powell was named Secretary of State in 2001, Paul McCartney and then girlfriend Heather Mills met with him to discuss a global ban on landmines, when Powell likely acquired a copy of “The Beatles: An Anthology” signed by McCartney: “To Colin, great meeting you/Thanks for your support. lets take a sad song and make it better!/Paul (McCartney)/April 2001.”
In 1993, Powell’s last year as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was presented with a standing desk with a plaque that reads, “Presented to Gen. Powell by the General and Flag Officers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, September 8, 1993.” The desk is inset with four medallions representing the Navy, Army, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
Earlier in his military career, Powell was stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, and felt that not enough attention was given to the Buffalo Soldiers, an African American cavalry formed just after the Civil War in 1866 at Fort Leavenworth. He was instrumental in the construction of a large monument there in 1967-68. The last year he chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1993, the Joint Chiefs presented Powell with a bronze scale model of the large Buffalo Soldier sculpture, and the model will be offered at auction.
Those whose paths he crossed and whom he counted as friends included Princess Diana. The two were honored at the United Cerebral Palsy Humanitarian Awards gala in 1995, and evidence of their friendship includes a Christmas card with a photo of Diana with Princes William and Harry signed to the Powells.
Powell’s lighter side is seen in several lots, including a Star Wars “Reveal” Lightsaber inscribed “To General Powell from General Skywalker” and signed by George Lucas, and an auto-racing helmet signed by drivers in the inaugural 2011 Baltimore Grand Prix, for which he served as Honorary Grand Marshal. The signatures include race winner Will Power as well as Dario Franchitti and Danica Patrick. The general was widely known for his love of cars, and when he died last fall, President Biden told former CNBC Chairman and President Mark Hoffman that his friend “could drive his Corvette Stingray like nobody’s business.”
Close to the hearts of General Powell and his wife, was America’s Promise Alliance founded in 1997 by Presidents Clinton, Bush, Carter, Ford and Reagan and chaired by General Powell and later by Alma Powell to make investments in young people a top priority. Featured in the auction will be a red wagon pin by jewelry designer Ann Hand, symbolizing the America’s Promise logo, and a framed and signed watercolor on paper by Marsha Winborn, who illustrated the dust jacket on the 2003 children’s book, “America’s Promise,” authored by Alma Powell.
The Powell estate includes a tuxedo made for Powell by master tailor Martin Greenfield, a holocaust survivor who was liberated by Eisenhower. Greenfield went on to make suits and tuxedos for six presidents, beginning with Eisenhower when he was a general. As a young tailor, Greenfield famously stitched foreign policy advice into the pockets of Eisenhower’s jackets. Alongside Powell’s bespoke tux in the auction are gala dresses worn by Alma Powell to high-profile Washington events such as the Obama inauguration, the State Dinner for the Prime Minister of India and others.
Potomack’s Colin Powell auction includes nearly 400 lots.