Roberta McCain at the 1992 launching of USS John S. McCain (DDG-56)
February 7, 1912
Muskogee, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Known for||Widow of Admiral John S. McCain Jr. and mother of U.S. Senator John McCain|
John S. McCain Jr.
(m. 1933; d. 1981)
Roberta Wright and her identical twin sister Rowena were born in Muskogee, Oklahoma on February 7, 1912. Their parents were Archibald Wright, a Los Angeles oil wildcatter, and Myrtle Mae Fletcher.
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.
Marriage and family
On January 21, 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). 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 ($6,043 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.
Roberta McCain gave birth to three children: Jean Alexandra "Sandy" (McCain) Morgan in 1934, John Sidney McCain III in 1936, and Joseph Pinckney "Joe" McCain II in 1942. She also has twelve grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren.
It was in Pearl Harbor that the couple awaited the release of their son from captivity. On November 1, 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..." 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."
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. 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."
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."
John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign
McCain campaigned during her son's 2008 presidential campaign, and was active in 2007 and 2008 despite her advanced age. 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. In August 2008, she had a fashion shoot and was featured in a pair of Vogue magazine articles. On May 13, 2009, she appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Her comments about Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann created a stir with politicos on both sides even after her son's failed presidential bid.
McCain's life of traveling with family, specifically her twin sister, was noted by Maureen Orth in The New York Times in December 2007. On October 22, 2009, she was hospitalized while traveling in Portugal after she fell and injured her head.
Her 100th birthday was noted in a number of periodicals in the United States, including an article by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Ken Herman. She was featured in Town & Country magazine later that year.
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." In September 2013, McCain and her parlor were featured in an article in the peer-reviewed academic journal, the Journal of Urban History.
In 2018 members of her family took to social media to express birthday wishes and memories of McCain over the years. She accompanied other members of the McCain family in 2018 for the DC screening of the documentary John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls. Before her son John's death in August 2018, she attended a Capitol Hill event where politicians commemorated the Senator, as a living requiem. 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.
- Meacham, Jon (August 30, 2008). "Hidden Depths". Newsweek. Retrieved September 4, 2008.
- Reitwiesner, William Addams. "Ancestry of Sen. John McCain". William Addams Reitwiesner Genealogical Services. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
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- "Navy Man, L.A. Girl Win Out in Turbulent Romance". Oakland Tribune. January 28, 1933.
- "Society Coed Elopes with Navy Officer: Roberta Wright Defies Family". The San Francisco Examiner. January 28, 1933.
- "Navy Wives Clubs give $1,000 to Helping Hand". Pacific Stars and Stripes. Tokyo, Japan. December 25, 1971.
- "John McCan's Mother Turns 105". The Western Journal. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 23, 2017.
- News, A. B. C. (2017-11-03). "When McCain's mother wrote LBJ 50 years ago". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
- Roberts, John G. (June 30, 1968). "The Admiral and His Son". Parade. p. 7.
- Mann, William C. (May 31, 1971). "Navy Wife Asks No Sympathy". Advocate. Victoria, Texas. Associated Press.
- Dickerson, John F. (February 28, 2000). "Johnny, I'll Wash Your Mouth Out". Time. 155 (8): 44. ISSN 0040-781X.
- Gross, Terry (December 6, 2005). "Shaping Character and Destinies: John McCain". NPR. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
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- McNeill, Brian (October 30, 2008). "McCain's mother visits regional GOP office". Daily Progress. Charlottesville, Virginia.
- "Play of the Day: McCain's Mom on Mormons". Associated Press. November 9, 2007.
- "Hardball with Chris Matthews transcript". Hardball with Chris Matthews. MSNBC. November 9, 2007. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
- Reed, Julia (August 2008). "Roberta McCain: The Firecracker". Vogue. 198 (8): 214-1. ISSN 0042-8000. Archived from the original on August 15, 2008. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
- Meisel, Steven; Van Lamsweerde, Inez; Matadin, Vinoodh; Testino, Mario; Roy, Norman Jean (August 2008). "Peerless". Vogue. 198 (8): 70–71. ISSN 0042-8000.
- "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno". May 13, 2009. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
- Mooney, Alexander (May 14, 2009). "McCain mom takes swipe at Limbaugh". CNN Politics. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
- Rainey, James (May 6, 2009). "Straight talk from John McCain's mother". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
- Orth, Maureen (December 14, 2007). "The Road Trip of 2 Lifetimes, and Still Going". The New York Times.
- "Sen. McCain's mother hospitalized in Portugal". CNN Political Ticker. October 23, 2009. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
- "A maverick at 100". The Washington Post. February 9, 2012.
- Herman, Ken (February 4, 2012). "Me and John McCain's mom". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
- O'Rourke, P.J. (October 2012). "At 100, in Command". Town & Country. 166 (5387): 100–104. ISSN 0040-9952.
- Van Susteren, Greta (September 11, 2013). "Coffee, conversation and a bond that transcends age and time". Politico. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
- Logan, Cameron (September 2013). "Mrs. McCain's Parlor: House and Garden Tours and the Inner-City Restoration Trend in Washington, D.C.". Journal of Urban History. 39 (5): 956–974. 19p. doi:10.1177/0096144213479323. ISSN 0096-1442.
- "John McCain Pays Tribute to Mother Roberta on Her 106th Birthday: 'We Love You Mom'". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
- "Debut of poignant McCain documentary 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'". NBC News. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
- https://www.facebook.com/paul.kane.3367. "Analysis | 'He stood up for civility:' Tributes for ailing McCain a tacit contrast with Trump". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
- "John McCain's remarkable mother: At 106, Roberta McCain has outlived her son". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-08-31.