Arizona pays tribute to John McCain as he lies in state

Former Republican presidential candidate died from brain cancer on Saturday

The family of Senator John McCain paid their respects at a memorial service in the Arizona Capitol where his body lies in state. Wife Cindy McCain kissed her husband's flag draped casket. Their daughter Meghan weeped as she touched his casket.


Residents lined up at the Arizona statehouse on Wednesday to pay respects to the late US senator John McCain, the Vietnam War hero and two-time Republican presidential candidate whose body will lie in state for the day at the Capitol Rotunda in Phoenix.

A hearse bearing Mr McCain’s body arrived with a police escort shortly before 10am local time for a private wreath-laying ceremony honouring the senator, who died of brain cancer on Saturday at his Arizona ranch. He was 81.

The hearse was greeted by governor Doug Ducey and his wife, an Arizona National Guard casket team and a phalanx of military personnel, war veterans, law enforcement officers and firefighters in dress uniform lining both sides of Capitol Plaza.

The tribute, followed in the afternoon by a public viewing of his flag-draped casket, marks the start of five days of memorials in Phoenix and Washington for Mr McCain. Wednesday would have been Mr McCain’s 82nd birthday.

“We are privileged as a state to have called him a fellow Arizonan,” Mr Ducey said on Twitter early Wednesday.

Three of Mr McCain’s onetime Republican colleagues from Arizona’s congressional delegation – retiring senator Jeff Flake, former senator Jon Kyl and former congressman James Kolbe – were also due to attend the morning ceremony.

Members of the public began lining up hours in advance for the casket viewing.

“I want to pay my respects because he deserves it,” said Linda Gordon (58). “He represents what our country should be.”

A view of the casket of John McCain during a memorial service in Phoenix, Arizona, US. Photograph: Ross D Franklin/EPA
A view of the casket of John McCain during a memorial service in Phoenix, Arizona, US. Photograph: Ross D Franklin/EPA

Mr McCain endured 5½ years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and parlayed his status as a Vietnam War hero into a decades-long political career. Over the past two years he has stood out as a key rival and critic of US president Donald Trump. The bad blood between the two persisted after Mr McCain’s death, with his family asking Mr Trump not to attend his funeral and the White House wavering on how to mourn a prominent fellow Republican.

Mr McCain is just the third person to lie in state in the Rotunda of the Arizona statehouse over the past 40 years, organisers of the ceremony said. The two others were state senator Marilyn Jarrett in 2006 and Olympic gold medallist Jesse Owens, a Tucson resident, in 1980.

Phoenix memorial

Following a Thursday memorial at a Phoenix church, Mr McCain’s body will be flown to Washington where he will lie in state on Friday at the US Capitol before a Saturday funeral at the Washington National Cathedral.

On Sunday, Mr McCain is to be buried in a private ceremony at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he graduated as a US navy officer in 1958 before going on to become a fighter pilot.

Mr Ducey, a Republican, has said he will wait until after Mr McCain’s burial to name a successor as senator.

His pick will come from Mr McCain’s party, leaving intact the Republican 51-49 majority in the Senate. It was unclear whether any successor would be inclined or able to play the role of public foil to Mr Trump that Mr McCain did, most notably in July 2017 when he cast the vote that blocked a Bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

The Phoenix memorial follows a few days of confusion at the White House over whether American flags at US government buildings would be flown at half-staff, in the traditional gesture for prominent political figures following their deaths. – Reuters