Roberta McCain

Roberta McCain (born February 7, 1912) is the widow of Admiral John S. McCain Jr. and mother of the Republican Arizona Senator and two-time Presidential candidate John S. McCain III.

Roberta McCain
Roberta McCain at the 1992 launching of USS John S. McCain (DDG-56)
Roberta McCain at the 1992 launching of USS John S. McCain (DDG-56)
Born Roberta Jean Wright
February 7, 1912 (age 106)
Muskogee, Oklahoma
Nationality American
Known for Widow of Admiral John S. McCain, Jr.
Mother of U.S. Senator and former Presidential Candidate John McCain
Spouse(s) John S. McCain, Jr. (m. 1933; d. 1981)[1]
Parent(s) Archibald Wright
Myrtle Fletcher
Relatives Cindy McCain (daughter-in-law)
Meghan McCain (granddaughter)
Rowena (Wright) Willis (twin sister, deceased)

Early life

Roberta Wright and her identical twin sister Rowena (1912–2011) were born in Muskogee, Oklahoma on February 7, 1912. Their parents, Archibald Wright (1874–1971), a Los Angeles oil wildcatter, and Myrtle Mae Fletcher (1885–1972), were married in Cleburne, Texas, on June 18, 1901.[2][3]

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).[1][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 ($6,043 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.[6]

Roberta McCain has three children: Jean Alexandra "Sandy" (McCain) Morgan (born 1934), John Sidney McCain III (born 1936), and Joseph Pinckney "Joe" McCain II (born 1942), twelve grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren.[7]

As a Navy family, the couple moved around as the Navy required. Shortly after they were married, the McCains moved to Honolulu, Hawaii where her husband was stationed in 1933–1934, and where their daughter was born. They returned to Pearl Harbor in 1968 from the Admiral's post in London as commander of US European Naval Forces where they lived at the time of their son's capture in Vietnam.

It was in Pearl Harbor that the couple awaited the release of their son from captivity. 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."[8]

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.[9] 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."[10]

John McCain has 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."[11]

John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign

McCain campaigned during her son's 2008 presidential campaign, and was active in 2007[12] and 2008 despite her advanced age.[13] 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.[14][15] In August 2008, she had a fashion shoot and was featured in a pair of Vogue magazine articles.[16][17] On May 13, 2009, she appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.[18] Her comments about Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann created a stir with politicos on both sides even after her son's failed presidential bid.[19][20]

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.[21] On October 22, 2009, she was hospitalized while traveling in Portugal after she fell and injured her head.[22]

Her 100th birthday in February 2012 was noted in a number of periodicals in the United States,[23] including an article by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Ken Herman.[24] She was featured in Town & Country magazine later that year.[25]

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."[26]

In September 2013, McCain and her parlor were featured in an article in the peer reviewed academic journal, the Journal of Urban History.[27]


  1. ^ a b Meacham, Jon (2008-08-30). "Hidden Depths". Newsweek. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
  2. ^ Reitwiesner, William Addams. "Ancestry of Sen. John McCain". William Addams Reitwiesner Genealogical Services. Retrieved 2014-05-25.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "Navy Man, L.A. Girl Win Out in Turbulent Romance". Oakland Tribune. Oakland, California. 1933-01-28.
  5. ^ "Society Coed Elopes with Navy Officer: Roberta Wright Defies Family". The San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, California. 1933-01-28.
  6. ^ "Navy Wives Clubs give $1,000 to Helping Hand". Pacific Stars and Stripes. Tokyo, Japan. 1971-12-25.
  7. ^ Roberta McCain grandchildren
  8. ^ Roberts, John G. (1968-06-30). "The Admiral and His Son". Parade via Independent Press-Telegram. Long Beach, California. p. 7.
  9. ^ Mann, William C. (1971-05-31). "Navy Wife Asks No Sympathy". Associated Press via Advocate. Victoria, Texas.
  10. ^ Dickerson, John F. (2000-02-28). "Johnny, I'll Wash Your Mouth Out". TIME. 155 (8): 44. ISSN 0040-781X.
  11. ^ Gross, Terry (2005-12-06). "Shaping Character and Destinies: John McCain". NPR. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
  12. ^ Davenport, Jim (2007-10-18). "McCain With Mom on Campaign Trail". AP Online.
  13. ^ McNeill, Brian (2008-10-30). "McCain's mother visits regional GOP office". Daily Progress. Charlottesville, Virginia.
  14. ^ "Play of the Day: McCain's Mom on Mormons". Associated Press. 2007-11-09.
  15. ^ "Hardball with Chris Matthews transcript". Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC. 2007-11-09. Retrieved 2014-05-25.
  16. ^ Reed, Julia (August 2008). "Roberta McCain: The Firecracker". Vogue. 198 (8): 214-1. ISSN 0042-8000. Archived from the original on 2008-08-15. Retrieved 2014-05-25.
  17. ^ Meisel, Steven; Van Lamsweerde, Inez; Matadin, Vinoodh; Testino, Mario; Roy, Norman Jean (August 2008). "Peerless". Vogue. 198 (8): 70–71. ISSN 0042-8000.
  18. ^ "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno". 2009-05-13. Retrieved 2014-05-25.
  19. ^ Mooney, Alexander (2009-05-14). "McCain mom takes swipe at Limbaugh". CNN Politics. Retrieved 2014-05-25.
  20. ^ Rainey, James (2009-05-06). "Straight talk from John McCain's mother". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
  21. ^ Orth, Maureen (2007-12-14). "The Road Trip of 2 Lifetimes, and Still Going". The New York Times. New York.
  22. ^ "Sen. McCain's mother hospitalized in Portugal". CNN Political Ticker – Blogs. 2009-10-23. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
  23. ^ "A maverick at 100". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. 2012-02-09.
  24. ^ Herman, Ken (2012-02-04). "Me and John McCain's mom". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
  25. ^ O'Rourke, P.J. (October 2012). "At 100, in Command". Town & Country. 166 (5387): 100–104. ISSN 0040-9952.
  26. ^ Van Susteren, Greta (2013-09-11). "Coffee, conversation and a bond that transcends age and time". Politico. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
  27. ^ 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.

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