Politician & Activist

John McCain

John McCain was an American politician and military officer, who served as a United States senator for Arizona from January 1987 until his death in 2018.

He previously served two terms in the United States House of Representatives and was the Republican nominee for president of the United States in the 2008 election, which he lost to Barack Obama.

  • Full name: John Sidney McCain III
  • Profession: American politician and military officer
  • Former United States Senator
  • Born: 29 August 1936, Coco Solo, Panama
  • Died: 25 August 2018, Cornville, Arizona, United States
  • Battles/wars: Vietnam War (POW): Operation Rolling Thunder (WIA)
  • Buried: 2 September 2018, United States Naval Academy Cemetery, Annapolis, Maryland, United States
  • Children: Meghan McCain, Bridget McCain, John Sidney McCain IV, James McCain, Sidney McCain
  • Spouse: Cindy McCain (m. 1980–2018), Carol McCain (m. 1965–1980)

About John McCain

John Sidney McCain III was born on 29 August 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, to naval officer John S. McCain Jr. (1911–1981) and Roberta (Wright) McCain (b. 1912).

He had an older sister Sandy and a younger brother Joe. At that time, the Panama Canal was under U.S. control.


McCain’s family tree includes Scots-Irish and English ancestors. His great-great-great grandparents owned High Rock Farm, a plantation in Rockingham County, North Carolina.

His father and his paternal grandfather, John S. McCain Sr., were also Naval Academy graduates and both became four-star admirals in the United States Navy.

The McCain family moved with their father as he took various naval postings in the United States and in the Pacific.


As a result, he attended a total of about 20 schools. In 1951, the family settled in Northern Virginia, and McCain attended Episcopal High School, a private preparatory boarding school in Alexandria. He excelled at wrestling and graduated in 1954.

He referred to himself as an Episcopalian as recently as June 2007 after which date, he said he came to identify as a Baptist.


Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, McCain entered the United States Naval Academy, where he was a friend and informal leader for many of his classmates and sometimes stood up for targets of bullying.

He also fought as a lightweight boxer. McCain did well in academic subjects that interested him, such as literature and history, but studied only enough to pass subjects that gave him difficulty, such as mathematics.

He came into conflict with higher-ranking personnel and did not always obey the rules, which contributed to a low-class rank (894 of 899), despite a high IQ. McCain graduated in 1958.


McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958 and received a commission in the United States Navy.

He became a naval aviator and flew ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. During the Vietnam War, he almost died in the 1967 USS Forrestal fire.

While on a bombing mission during Operation Rolling Thunder over Hanoi in October 1967, he was shot down, seriously injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese.

He was a prisoner of war until 1973. He experienced episodes of torture and refused an out-of-sequence early release.

During the war, he sustained wounds that left him with lifelong physical disabilities. He retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981 and moved to Arizona, where he entered politics.


In 1982, McCain was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served two terms. He entered the U.S. Senate in 1987 and easily won re-election five times.

While generally adhering to conservative principles, McCain also had a reputation as a “maverick” for his willingness to break from his party on certain issues.

His supportive stances on LGBT rights, gun regulations, and campaign finance reform were significantly more liberal than those of the party’s base.

McCain was investigated and largely exonerated in a political influence scandal of the 1980s as one of the Keating Five; he then made campaign finance reform one of his signature concerns, which eventually resulted in passage of the McCain–Feingold Act in 2002.

He was also known for his work in the 1990s to restore diplomatic relations with Vietnam. McCain chaired the Senate Commerce Committee and opposed pork barrel spending.

He belonged to the bipartisan “Gang of 14”, which played a key role in alleviating a crisis over judicial nominations.


McCain entered the race for the Republican nomination for president in 2000, but lost a heated primary season contest to Governor George W. Bush of Texas.

He secured the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, but lost the general election. McCain subsequently adopted more orthodox conservative stances and attitudes and largely opposed actions of the Obama administration, especially with regard to foreign policy matters.

In 2015, he became Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He refused to support then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in 2016. While McCain opposed the Affordable Care Act, he cast the deciding vote against the ACA-repealing American Health Care Act of 2017.


After being diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017, McCain reduced his role in the Senate in order to focus on treatment.

He died on August 25, 2018 at age 81. Following his death, McCain lay in state in the Arizona State Capitol rotunda and then in the United States Capitol rotunda.

His funeral was televised from the Washington National Cathedral, with former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama giving eulogies.