Roberta McCain, mother of the late Sen. John McCain, has died at age 108

She was a fixture on Capitol Hill and a large presence on the trail during her son’s 2008 bid for president

Roberta McCain, mother of of the late Sen. John McCain, before her son's funeral at the Washington National Cathedral on Sept. 1, 2018.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Roberta McCain, mother of of the late Sen. John McCain, before her son's funeral at the Washington National Cathedral on Sept. 1, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted October 12, 2020 at 4:23pm

Roberta McCain, mother of the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona, has died at the age of 108, according to her daughter-in-law, Cindy McCain.

She was a fixture on Capitol Hill and a large presence on the trail during her son’s 2008 bid for the presidency. During that campaign, the senator faced questions about his age and fitness for office, since he would have been the oldest person sworn in as a first-term U.S. president. Whenever pressed on the matter, he would point to his energetic mother, then 96, as an example of genetic longevity.

“From both my parents, I learned to persevere,” John McCain wrote in “Faith of My Fathers,” his 1999 memoir. “But my mother’s extraordinary resilience made her the stronger of the two.”

In the acknowledgements, he called her a “natural storyteller” and thanked her for helping him dredge up memories for the book “despite her initial suspicion that I was ‘just trying to show off.’”

She was “extroverted and irrepressible,” he wrote.

Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Roberta McCain confer while watching the Republican National Convention on Sept. 4, 2008, in St. Paul, Minn. (Scott J. Ferrell/ CQ Roll Call file photo)

At 108, Roberta McCain saw more than her share of American history. She was born in 1912, during the Taft administration, and lived through World War I, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, World War II, the Vietnam War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, 9/11 and the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better role model or a better friend,” Cindy McCain tweeted Monday. 

Roberta McCain outlived son John, who died in 2018 at age 81 after battling brain cancer. She was also preceded in death by her husband, Admiral John S. McCain Jr.; her twin sister, Rowena Willis; and daughter Sandy McCain.