John McCain Eulogized as 'True American Hero’

August 30, 2018 - 12:30 pm

(CBS News) - Following a somber ceremony at the Arizona State Capitol on Wednesday, family, friends and political leaders are remembering Senator John McCain at his Arizona memorial service on Thursday. McCain died at the age of 81 last weekend after a battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that was diagnosed last year.

Among those slated to speak at the Phoenix-area baptist church are former Vice President Joe Biden, who had a decades-long friendship with McCain, and whose son, Beau Biden, also died of the same cancer.

Follow along for live updates of the ceremony:

Tommy Espinoza says McCain's imprisonment "molded" the senator

Tommy Espinoza, a family friend and President and Chief Executive Officer of the Raza Development Fund, said that McCain's five years as a POW in Hanoi "is where God molded this fantastic hero."

Espinoza shared an anecdote of hiring a traditional marichi band to perform for a dinner with McCain and his family, saying it showed how committed to America's diverse tapestry the late senator was.

Woods on McCain's spirit of bipartisanship

"We also worry here in Arizona about a bigger picture I hope what he stood for will maybe get a renewed look in our country, that's what he would want," said Woods. He said McCain believed "so much that this in the end when it's all said and done, this Republican-Democrat thing isn't all that important. "

"We can work together as Americans," Woods added, saying that the late senator stood firmly in defense of a diverse America and the rights of every single citizen.

"Senator John McCain: He served his country with honor, he fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith," Woods concluded in his remarks.

Grant Woods says working with McCain the "greatest honor of my life"

The family friend and former two-term Attorney General for the State of Arizona recalled McCain's cunning wit and humor in his early days of politics. Woods, former chief of staff for then-Congressman McCain, called his over 30 years of work with McCain the "greatest honor of my life."

"It was once a little bit harrowing, a little bit wild, a little bit crazy but a lot of fun and the greatest honor of my life."

Woods said he's been often asked if he had a feeling he was working with someone so special. "My answer is yes absolutely, no question about it," said Woods.

On his love for the state, Woods said McCain "loved the people, our diversity, our Native American community, our hispanic culture and he loved the place -- in particular the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River."

"In Arizona, he was our hero,. I think you can see from this outpouring of support and love for John McCain that he was America's hero," said Woods.

He added, "If John McCain fell in love with Arizona, Arizona fell in love with John McCain."

Memorial church service begins

The service inside the Phoenix church begins at 1:00 p.m. as speakers, including Biden took the stage. McCain's casket is slowly carried in as the family followed behind.

His casket, draped in American flag, is placed beside two large all-white flower arrangements.

In delivering the invocation, Senior Pastor Dr. Noe Garcia called McCain "a true American hero" who was "loved by this nation and this city, a man of courage, a man of faith and a man who dearly loved his family."

Shortly after, the Brophy Student Ensemble performed a somber rendition of the song "Amazing Grace"

McCain arrives to Phoenix church

Senator John McCain arrived at the Phoenix church with a stream of police officers on motorcycles escorting his casket just after 12:45 p.m. Members of the National Guard casket team carried his body as the McCain family, including wife Cindy, her sons Jack and Jimmy and daughters Meghan and Bridget, followed behind.

McCain departs en route to church service

Shortly after 12:08 p.m. the hearse carrying McCain's casket departed for its procession to the North Phoenix Baptist Church. Scores of police escort the processional along the Arizona roadways.

Hearse arrives to escort McCain's casket

At 12 noon, a police escort with the McCain family arrived at the Arizona State Capitol where his body had been lying in state since Wednesday.

Local mourners lined the Capitol Plaza holding 2008 McCain campaign posters as his casket, carried by members of the Arizona National Guard, was escorted into a black hearse.

The family now is traveling to the Phoenix church for the memorial service.

McCain's attention to Native Americans

Senator McCain made sure to include the participation of members of the Native American community, a rich demographic in Arizona, in his week of memorial services. Performing a hymn at Thursday's service is Jonah LittleSunday, a Navajo flutist.

Senator McCain had a special relationship with Arizona's Native American community, and "fought tirelessly to uphold the federal government's solemn obligation to care for and empower tribes," according to a statement from his office.

He twice chaired the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs from 1995-1997 and again from 2005-2007.

Biden's connection to the McCain family

Close family friend and former campaign manager Rick Davis told reporters that former Vice President Joe Biden has been quite close to the family as of late, offering his time and knowledge on glioblastoma, the same form of cancer that took the life of his son Beau.

Davis said that Biden has been "treated as a member of the family", most notably consoling an emotional Meghan McCain during an appearance on ABC's "The View" as they discussed her father's diagnosis.

Biden and McCain first became friends in the late 1970's when Senator McCain served as the Navy's liaison to the Senate and accompanied then-Senator Biden on overseas trips.

Lawmakers present for McCain's service

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Former Vice President Dan Quayle, 24 sitting U.S. Senators, four former senators, and other notable leaders from the State of Arizona are expected to attend the memorial service, many of whom are being flown out from D.C. to participate in the ceremony.

Here are the current members of Congress expected to attend:


Senator Lamar Alexander (Tennessee)

Senator John Barrasso (Wyoming)

Senator John Boozman (Arkansas)

Senator Bill Cassidy (Louisiana)

Senator Bob Corker (Tennessee)

Senator John Cornyn (Texas)

Senator Steve Daines (Montana)

Senator Jeff Flake (Arizona)

Senator John Hoeven (North Dakota)

Senator Jim Risch (Idaho)

Senator Ben Sasse (Nebraska)

Senator John Thune (South Dakota)

Senator Roger Wicker (Mississippi)

Senator Todd Young (Indiana)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (California)


Senator Michael Bennet (Colorado)

Senator Chris Coons (Deleware)

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (New York)

Senator Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota)

Senator Mazie Hirono (Hawaii)

Senator Joe Manchin (West Virginia)

Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon)

Senator Patty Murray (Washington)

Senator Jack Reed (Rhode Island)

Senator Jon Tester (Montana)

McCain's first ceremony

Mourners lined streets and filed into the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday to pay their respects and view McCain's casket lying in state inside the Capitol Rotunda.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety estimates that 12-15 thousand members of the public filed through the state Capitol on Wednesday after the McCain family and close friends honored the late senator in a private ceremony -- the first in a series of week-long events celebrating McCain's life.

The ceremony was at times tearful as McCain's wife Cindy and daughter Meghan were seen weeping over the senator's casket. Later Wednesday evening, McCain's children Sidney, Jimmy and Jack visited with local mourners who were still visiting their father's casket.

John McCain memorial schedule

Senator McCain's family and friends, along with state, local and tribal officials, and business and civic leaders from across Arizona have been invited to attend the service at the North Phoenix Baptist Church.

The Arizona National Guard will retrieve McCain's casket ahead of the processional, and his family will proceed to the rear of the hearse to observe the casket removal before entering the church.

Beyond Biden, speakers at Thursday's ceremony include an old friend, Tommy Espinoza, Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, McCain's son and daughter Andrew and Bridget, and former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods.

Afterward, McCain's casket will then depart Arizona for the last time en route to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. He will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Friday before his weekend service in Washington and final burial in Annapolis, Maryland.

Missing from the family services in Arizona is McCain's 106-year-old mother Roberta. The McCain matriarch will attend her son's service at the National Cathedral in D.C. on Saturday as well as the burial services at the U.S. Naval Academy on Sunday.

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