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Arizona Senator John McCain passes away: Family, officials speak out on his legacy

Posted: 7:02 PM, Aug 25, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-27 03:07:06Z
Family, officials speak out on McCain's legacy

Presidents past and present joined members of Congress from both parties and world leaders in mourning Sen. John McCain and praising him for a lifetime of service and accomplishments.

President Donald Trump, who once criticized fellow Republican McCain for being taken prisoner during the Vietnam War, said his "deepest sympathies and respect" went out to McCain's family.

TIMELINE: The life of Senator John McCain

McCain, 81, died Saturday at his ranch in Arizona after a yearlong battle with brain cancer.

A black hearse, accompanied by a police motorcade, could be seen driving away from the ranch near Sedona where McCain spent his final weeks. For 50 miles along Interstate 17 southbound, on every overpass and at every exit ramp, people watched the procession. Hundreds, including many waving American flags, parked their cars and got out to watch.

Trump's brief Twitter statement said "hearts and prayers" are with the McCain family.

Trump and McCain were at odds until the end. The president, who as a candidate in 2016 mocked McCain's capture in Vietnam, had jabbed at the ailing senator for voting against Republican efforts to roll back President Barack Obama's health care law.

Earlier this summer, McCain issued a blistering statement criticizing Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

RELATED: 10 big political moments in John McCain’s life

Former presidents, including those who blocked McCain's own White House ambitions, offered emotional tributes.

Obama, who triumphed over McCain in 2008, said that despite their differences, McCain and he shared a "fidelity to something higher -- the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed."

Obama said they "saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world."

Former President George W. Bush, who defeated McCain for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, called McCain a "man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order" and a "friend whom I'll deeply miss."

Bush was among those expected to speak at McCain's funeral. McCain is expected to be remembered at ceremonies in Arizona and Washington before being buried, likely this coming week, at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery on a peninsula overlooking the Severn River in Annapolis, Maryland.

Tributes poured in from around the globe.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted in English that McCain "was a true American hero. He devoted his entire life to his country." Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said McCain's support for the Jewish state "never wavered. It sprang from his belief in democracy and freedom." And Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, called McCain "a tireless fighter for a strong trans-Atlantic alliance. His significance went well beyond his own country."

McCain was the son and grandson of admirals and followed them to the U.S. Naval Academy. A pilot, he was shot down over Vietnam and held as a prisoner of war for more than five years. He went on to win a seat in the House and in 1986, the Senate, where he served for the rest of his life.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called McCain a "fascinating personality."

PHOTOS: 50 photos that capture John McCain's personality

"He would occasionally be in a bad place with various members, including myself, and when this would blow over it was like nothing ever happened," McConnell said Saturday after a GOP state dinner in Lexington, Kentucky. "He also had a wicked sense of humor and it made every tense moment come out better."

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who developed a friendship with McCain while they served together in the Senate, said the Arizona lawmaker will "cast a long shadow."

"The spirit that drove him was never extinguished: we are here to commit ourselves to something bigger than ourselves," Biden said

 The Senate's top Democrat, New York's Chuck Schumer, said he wants to rename the Senate building that housed McCain's suite of offices after McCain.

"As you go through life, you meet few truly great people. John McCain was one of them," Schumer said. "Maybe most of all, he was a truth teller - never afraid to speak truth to power in an era where that has become all too rare."

See a complete list of reactions from family, officials and others below.

"Senator McCain was not only a great man and patriot, but a great D-backs fan and I am proud to consider him a dear friend. We always knew we could count on him to root us on -- from the ballpark, from his home and from all the way across the country. On behalf of my entire family, our thoughts and prayers are with Cindy and his family and we are very grateful for all that he did on behalf of his country" - D-backs legend Luis Gonzalez

"John McCain has always been a member of the D-backs' family and was one of this team's biggest fans since day one" - Arizona Diamondbacks President & CEO Derrick Hall

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Cindy McCain and the entire family. John McCain was a great man and a great Arizonan who committed his life in the most remarkable and respectable ways to the service of others and his country.  From the military to the Senate he was a brave and honorable person. May he rest in peace" - David Garcia