After joining the Ugandan army in 1962 when the colony gained independence from Britain, he quickly rose up the ranks to commander of the armed forces in 1966.
In a military coup in 1971, Amin ousted Ugandan leader Milton Obote and seized power.
He declared himself president and began a reign seen as one of the bloodiest in African history -- earning Amin the nickname "Butcher of Uganda." The 250-pound dictator preferred to call himself Dada, or "Big Daddy."
In 1972, Amin plunged his East African nation into economic chaos by expelling tens of thousands of Asians who had controlled the country's economy.
And during his eight-year rule, Ugandans were gripped in a climate of fear as an estimated 500,000 people disappeared or were killed.
Amin garnered a fearsome reputation as a sadistic leader surrounded by death; he was even reported to be a cannibal.
Bodies were dumped into the River Nile because there were insufficient graves. At one point, so many bodies were fed to crocodiles that remains sometimes blocked intake ducts at the country's hydroelectric plant at Jinja, AP said.
"Even Amin does not know how many people he has ordered to be executed ... The country is littered with bodies," said Henry Kyemba, Amin's longtime friend and a former health minister, when he defected to Britain in 1977.
He praised Hitler and said the German dictator "was right to burn six million Jews." He bizarrely offered to be king of Scotland if asked.
Amin challenged his neighbor and frequent critic, Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, to a boxing match, according to The Associated Press, and wished