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I met John McCain in 1982, the year he ran for and won a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives. It was a tough year to run as a Republican (we lost 26 seats in the House; it was President Reagan’s mid-term).
Even so, it was no surprise that he won. John–a solid Republican–was a fascinating combination of grit, intellect, wile, and friendliness with a touch of rascality that served him well when he chose to be contrarian.
A lot has been written about him in the last few days, mostly platitudes. But the way I think John would like to be remembered was written by West Doss an Arkansan who worked in my campaign for the U. S. Senate in 1984:
“THE SPIRIT OF THIS MAN IS WHAT MAKES AMERICA GREAT.
I just heard that John McCain has passed from this earth. He is a hero. He was one of my heroes. In 1984 I was blessed to work on my good friend Ed Bethune’s Senate Campaign. One of my jobs was to haul Congressman McCain around the state and speak about Ed. The Congressman could hardly get into my Honda Civic because of his war wounds. I took him to my hometown of Beebe where he spoke at the American Legion. We ate lunch at the College Inn. I gave him the “West Doss” tour of Beebe and he was very good natured. He had already lived a couple of lifetimes and now he was in politics. He was fascinating.
I ran into him through the years as he campaigned and when I worked for Asa in DC. We were pushing campaign finance reform on the House side and Senator McCain was on the Senate side. He always kidded me about Beebe.
Senator McCain affected my life, not the way one might think. He insisted on carrying my briefcase. He insisted on getting my coffee. He helped me unload the car when we got back to the campaign office. He was selfless. I saw true humility and I hope that at times my life exhibits that spirit. I was just a driver, but he made me feel important and to him I was important. This was not normal. It is not what one would expect. This is the same spirit that refused to be released as a POW before others. He earned the name of “Maverick.”
Thank you John McCain for making America great. God speed. You will not be forgotten.”
West Doss captured the John McCain I know. I’m certain there are tens of thousands, if not millions, who have been similarly inspired by this man who lived the creed: Duty, honor, country.
Our friendship lasted long after I left the House as we were members of the Chowder & Marching Club, a special group that meets in the Capitol each Wednesday when Congress is in session.
I will miss John McCain, but so will America. RIP, old friend.