Sen. John McCain, an American hero, has died surrounded by family at his Arizona home. He was 81.

McCain’s office said in a statement “Senator John Sidney McCain III died at 4:28 p.m. on August 25, 2018. With the Senator when he passed were his wife Cindy and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years.”

The son and grandson of four-star Navy admirals who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, McCain rose to become one of the towering figures in American politics, twice seeking the presidency and winning the 2008 Republican nomination for president. In the Senate, he has been both revered as an iconoclast and criticized by many, including President Trump, for his willingness to buck his party on issues like campaign finance reform and, last summer, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

First elected to a congressional seat in Arizona in 1982, McCain replaced another icon, Sen. Barry Goldwater, in the senate in 1987. McCain gained a reputation as a lawmaker who was willing to stick to his convictions rather than go along with party leaders. It is a streak that draws a mix of respect and ire.

McCain’s life was punctuated by wild highs and lows, from the horrific conditions he endured for nearly 2,000 days as a prisoner of war to subsequent professional successes that brought him to the forefront of American politics.

Over the course of his career he rallied against pork-barrel spending and went against his own party’s president, George W. Bush, on strategy for the Iraq war. He earned a reputation as a party maverick by advocating campaign finance reform, lending his name to the bipartisan McCain-Feingold Act of 2002, and supporting overhauling the nation’s immigration system over the years.

In his memoir, “The Restless Wave,” McCain said he had received calls since his diagnosis from old sparring partners, including the two men who ended his White House dreams in 2000 and 2008: former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

In the book, written in deepening recognition of his own mortality and at a polarized political moment, McCain wrote: “Before I leave, I’d like to see our politics begin to return to the purposes and practices that distinguish our history from the history of other nations. I would like to see us recover our sense that we are more alike than different.”

 
(A personal note from Jim Heath: I have met two public servants in my life that impressed me to the point of constant internal questions of my own journalistic objectivity. One was Sen. Barry Goldwater. The other is Sen. John McCain. Both Arizonans, and ironically, one followed the other into the senate. McCain, whom I’ve known since the age of 16, once told me that Goldwater “would be a chapter in American history, the rest of us will be footnotes.” On this, I disagree. John McCain is an American hero, raised with a great calling for public service, and, like Goldwater, will be included in history books with an entire chapter.)
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