Soon after Arizona Sen. John McCain died on Saturday, many notables in the African-American community extended condolences to the veteran lawmaker, Vietnam War hero, and two-time presidential candidate.
The collective sentiment expressed respect for a public servant who grew less imperfect over time.
Cloves Campbell III, former chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which connects 200-plus African-American newspapers, and publisher of the Arizona Informant, put it this way:
“Senator John McCain will be remembered in the African-American community of Arizona as a national statesman who grew and evolved particularly in his later years as an elected official who transcended partisan politics and who eventually did what he thought was the right thing to do rather than to be confined to political party loyalty. That is why he voted pivotally to save the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) at a time when most Republicans were voting to end the ACA.”
In April of 2008, as the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis was being observed, McCain was in Memphis. With a smattering of boos audible, he addressed a crowd braving rain on the site where Dr. King was killed.
McCain noted the error of his ways in having chosen to oppose a national holiday for Dr. King. He was a freshman Congressman at the time. Here is a snippet of what he said:
“Even in this most idealistic of nations, we do not always take kindly to being reminded of what more we can do, or how much better we can be, or who else can be included in the promise of America. …
“We can be slow as well to give greatness its due, a mistake I made myself long ago when I voted against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King. I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support for a state holiday in Arizona.’’
McCain ran against then-Sen. Barack Obama for president in 2008. On the campaign trail, he shut down a birther, who raised doubts about Obama’s birthplace and religion. After President Donald Trump labeled Haiti and African nations “shithole countries,” McCain openly criticized him, one of the few Republicans to do so.
Former President Obama issued a statement after learning that McCain had passed.
“John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different background, and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed. We 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. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible – and citizenship as our patriotic obligations to ensure it forever remains that way.
“Few of us have been tested the way John was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt. Michelle and I send our most heartfelt condolence to Cindy and their family.”
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr, president and CEO of the NNPA, emphasized that, “John McCain’s integrity and courage were his greatest virtues. His national leadership example is still needed today not only in the U.S. Senate, but also in every state, city and town across America.”
Dorothy Leavell, chairman of the NNPA and publisher of the Crusader newspapers, said McCain’s death “reminds us that none of us are immortal, but his life was one of service and love for his country. Giving of one’s service until the end speaks volumes of his integrity and he fulfilled the call from our maker to be of service to others.”
(This perspective includes reports from the NNPA, NewsOne and other TSD Newsroom sources.)