Roberta McCain Dead, The Late Senator John McCain’s Mother Passed Away At Age 108

Roberta McCain, mother of Republican U.S. presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), speaks during a taping for a broadcast on the "Meet the Press" website at the NBC Studios May 13, 2007 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong / Getty Images

Roberta McCain has passed away at the age of 108, according to the Associated Press. The Oklahoma native lived a long life, as the centenarian is mostly known by younger generations as the mother of the late Senator John S. McCain III, as well as the wife of the well-known Navy Admiral John McCain Jr.

According to the AP, news of her death came from a spokesperson for daughter-in-law Cindy McCain. Her cause of death was not immediately released.


Roberta’s Early Life And Children

Roberta McCain (R), mother of Republican U.S. presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (L), speaks during a taping for a broadcast on the "Meet the Press" website at the NBC Studios May 13, 2007 in Washington, DC.
  Alex Wong / Getty Images for Meet the Press

Roberta’s life began in Muskogee, Oklahoma on February 7, 1912. She was the daughter of Archibald Wright, who made his living drilling wildcat wells, and Myrtle Mae Fletcher. Roberta had an identical twin sister Rowena, who passed in 2011.

Roberta was a student at the University of Southern California when she met John McCain Jr. At the time, the eventual four-star admiral was serving as a naval ensign on the USS Oklahoma. The couple eloped to Tijuana, Mexico, on January 21, 1933, beginning a marriage that would last almost 50 years, until McCain Jr.’s death in 1981. Roberta gave birth to three children, Jean Alexandra in 1934, John in 1936, and Joseph in 1942. Joseph is the only one of her children who is still alive. Roberta is survived by 12 grandchildren as well as 15 great-grandchildren as well.

She became a well-known figure when her son John was taken prisoner during the Vietnam War. As reported by ABC News, she wrote a letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson while her son was imprisoned, supporting the president’s policies in Vietnam, writing, “As the parent of a son who was shot down in Hanoi, last week, and is now a prisoner-of-war, I wonder if you are interested to know that both my husband and I back you and your policies 100 percent in Vietnam? One reads so much of other opinions, that I just hope that you know the people really making the sacrifice, believe in our country and in you.”

The McCains requested no sympathy while their son was a prisoner-of-war, as the military family understood the risks that came with going to war. McCain III would be held as a prisoner for more than five years, eventually being released on March 15, 1973.


Roberta McCain Played An Important Role In Her Son’s Political Ambitions

(L-R) Meghan McCain is comforted by her grandmother Roberta McCain as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks during a ceremony for the late-Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, August 31, 2018 in Washington, DC. The late senator died August 25 at the age of 81 after a long battle with Glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. He will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, then a memorial service will be held at the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday. Sen. McCain will be buried at his final resting place at the U.S. Naval Academy on Sunday.
  Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Roberta was heavily involved in her son’s 2008 presidential campaign, making constant appearances on the campaign trail despite being well into her nineties. She was never afraid to speak her mind, becoming a part of a minor controversy during an interview when she commented on the Mormon religion of her son’s Republican primary challenger Mitt Romney, as reported by CNN.

After her son’s loss to Barack Obama, Roberta maintained a public figure, including making an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2009. Her appearance managed to ruffle the feathers of pundits on both sides of the aisle, as she didn’t mince her words when asked about Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann, saying of Limbaugh, “What he represents of the Republican Party has nothing to do with my side of it. I don’t know what the man means, I don’t know what he’s talking about,” according to reports by CNN. She described Olbermann as the “type of person who really more or less gets joy out of denigrating people.”

Despite her advanced age, Roberta made it through life without suffering many health scares. She cut back on public appearances after sustaining a head injury from a fall during a vacation in Portugal in October of 2009. Shortly before she turned 100 in 2012, she suffered a mild stroke. After the death of her son, John McCain III, she was in attendance at the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, where her son’s remains lied in state.