John McCain, a war hero and towering figure in US politics known for reaching across the aisle in an increasingly divided nation, died on Saturday following a battle with brain cancer. He was 81.
The senator’s passing marked the end of a 35-year political career that brought the independent-minded Republican within reach of the White House as his party’s presidential nominee.
“It’s been quite a ride,” McCain, who was tortured during five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, wrote in a memoir published in May.
“I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war and helped make peace. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.”
McCain, who was being treated at his ranch near Sedona, Arizona, was surrounded by his wife Cindy and his family during his final hours.
“He was a great fire who burned bright, and we lived in his light and warmth,” said Meghan McCain, one of the late senator’s seven children — three of them from a previous marriage.
Near the driveway to his ranch a sign read “Sen McCain, thank you for your service.”
In Washington, flags on Capitol Hill and the White House were lowered to half mast in his honor.
McCain’s body will lie in state in the Capitol rotunda ahead of a funeral ceremony at the National Cathedral, the New York Times reported. He will then lie in state in the Arizona state capitol and be buried at Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Dates for the events have not yet been announced.
McCain made it known that he did not want Donald Trump to attend his funeral, US media reported.
– ‘All in his debt’ –
President Trump, who once mocked McCain’s war record, said he sent his “deepest sympathies and respect.”
A rare Republican critic of Trump, McCain accused the president of “naivete,” “egotism” and of sympathizing with autocrats. He cast a decisive vote last year that killed Republican attempts to repeal Barack Obama’s health care reforms, something Trump never forgave.
All living former US presidents lined up to praise McCain’s deep integrity.
AFP/File / Paul J. RICHARDS
McCain lost a 2008 presidential bid to Barack Obama, a Democrat
“We are all in his debt,” said Obama, the Democrat to whom McCain lost the presidency in 2008.
“We shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed.”
McCain “was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order,” said Republican George W. Bush (2001-2009).
The late senator requested that both Obama and Bush deliver eulogies at his funeral, US media reported.
Democrat Bill Clinton (1993-2001) praised McCain, saying he “frequently put partisanship aside,” while Republican George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) hailed him as “a public servant of the rarest courage.”
McCain “was a man of honor, a true patriot in the best sense of the word,” wrote Democrat Jimmy Carter (1977-1981). “Americans will be forever grateful for his heroic military service & his steadfast integrity.”