Timeline: The Life And Career Of Sen. John McCain

Aug 28, 2018, 10:42 AM | Updated: 10:13 pm
Sen. John McCain

From military to politics, John McCain served the United States in one capacity or another for most of his life.

He was called a “maverick” and a “comeback kid.” The Republican senator from Arizona and former presidential candidate was known for his ability to work with Democrats to create bipartisan legislation to benefit the United States of America.

Here’s a look back at the major moments in the life and career of John McCain.


  • John McCain was born at Coco Solo Naval Station in the Panama Canal Zone, which was a U.S. territory at that time.


  • McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis and graduated from flight school two years after that. He later volunteered for combat duty in the Vietnam War.


  • McCain married his first wife, Carol Sheep, before being deployed.


  • He was nearly killed when his plane was accidentally shot by a missile on board the USS Forrestal in the Gulf of Tonkin, which is off the coast of northern Vietnam.
  • McCain’s plane was shot down over Vietnam’s capital where he was captured by the North Vietnamese and placed in Hoa Loa prison.

In this undated file photo provided by CBS, U.S. Navy Lt. Commander John S. McCain lies injured in North Vietnam. (CBS via AP, File)


  • His captors offered to release McCain, but he refused unless every American captured before him was freed as well.


  • Following years of torture, including 3½ in solitary confinement, McCain was released from Hoa Loa prison along with other American prisoners of war.
  • McCain earned a handful of military honors including the Purple Heart, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In this March 14, 1973, file photo, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. John McCain, center, is escorted by Lt. Cmdr. Jay Coupe Jr., to Hanoi, Vietnam’s Gia Lam Airport, after McCain was released from captivity. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)


  • He was assigned to become the Navy’s liaison to the U.S. Senate after the long-term damage from torture left him unable to continue combat duties.


  • McCain divorced his first wife, Carol Sheep.


  •  He married Cindy Lou Hensley, who would remain his spouse for the rest of his life.

John McCain and his wife, Cindy


  • McCain was elected to represent Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives.


  • Following his time as a member of the House, he sought a new political position and was elected to the seat vacated by Barry Goldwater in the U.S. Senate.


  • McCain was accused of improperly intervening with the federal investigation of Charles H. Keating Jr., the banker who cost investors their life savings during a savings-and-loan scandal. McCain was later cleared of any improper actions.

In this June 24, 1992, file photo, Sen. John McCain holds up an article from the Washington Times during a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/John Duricka, File)


  • After years as a senator from Arizona, McCain decided to make a bid for the presidency. He ran in the Republican primaries against, and eventually lost to, George W. Bush.


  • John McCain helped create legislation that restricted political parties’ use of funds that weren’t subject to federal limits. The McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush this year.

In this Aug. 30, 2008, file photo, former Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, right, introduces his daughter Meghan at a campaign stop in Washington, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)


  • He made his second run at the presidency and won the GOP primary. He would eventually lose to Barack Obama.


  • McCain continued to reach across the aisle, this time to pursue a bipartisan solution to immigration reform — which included a path to citizenship for immigrants already living in the United States.


  • He became chairman of the Armed Services Committee.


  • After a begrudging endorsement for then-candidate Donald Trump (Trump famously said he liked “…people who weren’t captured” after McCain criticized his rhetoric), he withdrew that endorsement when the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced of Trump admitting to groping women.


  • McCain revealed he had been diagnosed with a form of brain cancer called glioblastoma.

In this Dec. 1, 2017, file photo, Sen. John McCain leaves a closed-door session on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)


  • John McCain died after ending treatments for his brain cancer.



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Timeline: The Life And Career Of Sen. John McCain