Gerontology Wiki
Roberta McCain
Roberta McCain
Birth: 7 February 1912
Muskogee, Oklahoma, USA
Death: 12 October 2020
Washington, D.C., USA
Age: 108 years, 248 days
Country: United StatesUSA

Roberta McCain (née Wright; 7 February 1912 – 12 October 2020) was a notable American centenarian, known for being the mother of the late Senator John McCain III, US Senator, Vietnam War veteran and the Republican nominee for President of the United States in the 2008 election, which he lost to Barack Obama.

Early life

Roberta Wright and her identical twin sister Rowena (1912–2011) were born in Muskogee, Oklahoma on 7 February 1912. Their parents were Archibald Wright (1874–1971), a Los Angeles oil wildcatter, and Myrtle Mae Fletcher (1885–1972).[2][3]

Her father became a stay-at-home dad after gaining wealth from the oil industry and the family traveled constantly, with trips every summer during August.[3]

Marriage and family

On 21 January 1933, she eloped in Tijuana, Mexico with a naval ensign, later to become four-star Admiral John S. McCain, Jr. in Caesar's Bar. She was attending the University of Southern California and McCain was attached to USS Oklahoma (BB-37).[3][4][5] She became the daughter-in-law of Admiral John S. McCain, Sr., a noted World War II carrier admiral under Fleet Admiral William Halsey.

In 1952, she was the ship sponsor for USS John S. McCain (DL-3), named for her father-in-law. She was also an honored guest at the 1992 launching of USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) which was named for her husband and her father-in-law. She was also active in Navy Wives Clubs. For example, during Christmas 1971, she traveled to Saigon and presented $1,000 ($6,187 today) and 14 boxes of clothing to the Vietnam Advisory Board of Operation Helping Hand on behalf of the Pearl Harbor area Navy Wives Clubs.[6]

Roberta McCain gave birth to three children, one daughter and two sons: Jean Alexandra "Sandy" (McCain) Morgan in 1934, John Sidney McCain III in 1936, and Joseph Pinckney "Joe" McCain II in 1942. She also has 12 grandchildren, one of which is Meghan McCain and 15 great-grandchildren.[7]

It was in Pearl Harbor that the couple awaited the release of their son from captivity. On 1 November 1967, she wrote to President Lyndon B. Johnson, expressing her support of his policies in Vietnam as a "parent of a son who was shot down in Hanoi, last week, and is now a prisoner-of-war..."[8] In June 1968, Roberta McCain told Parade magazine, "Religion has been of great importance to us in our concern for Johnny, religion and the military tradition of my husband's family. We all pray for the time when we'll see Johnny again."[9]

In 1971, she requested no special sympathy for her in regards to her son's captivity. She said navy tradition was important in the family, her daughter married a naval officer, John McCain III became a naval aviator and her youngest son Joe enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War.[10] Her son John was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years. When notified upon his release on March 15, 1973, that he had shouted expletives at his captors, Mrs. McCain's response was, "Johnny, I'm going to come over there and wash your mouth out with soap."[11]

John McCain said of his mother: "My mother was raised to be a strong, determined woman who thoroughly enjoyed life, and always tried to make the most of her opportunities. She was encouraged to accept, graciously and with good humor, the responsibilities and sacrifices her choices have required of her. I am grateful to her for the strengths she taught me by example."[12]

John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign

McCain campaigned during her son's 2008 presidential campaign, and was active in 2007[13] and 2008 despite her advanced age.[14] In November 2007, her comments about Mitt Romney, his role in organizing the 2002 Winter Olympics and Mormonism during an MSNBC interview generated minor political controversy and forced her son to respond to clarify her remarks.[15][16] In August 2008, she had a fashion shoot and was featured in a pair of Vogue magazine articles.[17][18] On May 13, 2009, she appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.[19] Her comments about Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann created a stir with politicos on both sides even after her son's failed presidential bid.[20][21]

Later life

McCain's life of traveling with family, specifically her twin sister, was noted by Maureen Orth in The New York Times in December 2007.[22] On October 22, 2009, she was hospitalized while traveling in Portugal after she fell and injured her head.[23]

Her 100th birthday was noted in a number of periodicals in the United States,[24] including an article by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Ken Herman.[25] She was featured in Town & Country magazine later that year.[26]

In September 2013, television commentator Greta Van Susteren wrote about McCain in an essay that was featured by Politico during their series "Women Rule" which sought to explore "how women are leading change in politics, policy and their communities."[27] In September 2013, McCain and her parlor were featured in an article in the peer-reviewed academic journal, the Journal of Urban History.[28]

In 2018, members of her family took to social media to express birthday wishes and memories of McCain over the years.[29] She accompanied other members of the McCain family in 2018 for the DC screening of the documentary John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls.[30] Before her son John's death in August 2018, she attended a Capitol Hill event where politicians commemorated the Senator, as a living requiem.[31] After her son's death, she attended the ceremony that marked the arrival of his remains to lie in state in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol.[32]

On 7 February 2019, Roberta McCain celebrated her 107th birthday.

In November 2019, McCain's daughter Jean McCain Morgan died of mesothelioma, aged 85. [1]

McCain died in Washington, D.C., USA on 12 October 2020, at the age of 108 years, 248 days.[2][3]