WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain’s service to his country began more than six decades ago at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and will end there in a cemetery overlooking Maryland’s Severn River.
A private burial service next Sunday will conclude nearly a week of events honoring the Navy aviator, prisoner of war, congressman, longtime senator and presidential contender. The Arizona Republican died of brain cancer Saturday at 81 at his ranch near Sedona.
Plans taking shape called for McCain to lie in state Wednesday in the Arizona State Capitol on what would have been his 82nd birthday. A funeral will be conducted Thursday at North Phoenix Baptist Church with former Vice President Joe Biden speaking.
In Washington, McCain will lie in state Friday in the Capitol Rotunda with a formal ceremony and time for the public to pay respects. On Saturday, a procession will pass the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and arrive for a funeral at Washington National Cathedral. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama are expected to speak at the service.
A private funeral is planned for Sunday afternoon at the Naval Academy Chapel followed by a private burial at the academy cemetery. As he wished, McCain will be buried next to a Naval Academy classmate and lifelong friend, Chuck Larson.
President Donald Trump was not expected to attend any of the services. McCain had long feuded with Trump, and two White House officials said McCain’s family had asked, before the senator’s death, that Trump not attend services. Vice President Mike Pence is likely to attend, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.
Trump noted the senator’s death in a tweet Saturday: “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” First lady Melania Trump tweeted thanks to McCain for his service to the country.
Bush and Obama had been McCain’s political opponents, too, blocking his White House ambitions in 2000 and 2008, respectively. “These were bitter contests, both of them,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” and “to ask them to speak at your funeral, and for them to be honored at the opportunity, that tells you all you need to know.”
One of McCain’s long-serving Senate colleagues, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday, “The nation mourns the loss of a great American patriot, a statesman who put his country first and enriched this institution through many years of service.”
With McCain set to be honored in Arizona’s Capitol, GOP Gov. Doug Ducey said in a tweet, “This is a rare and distinct occurrence for a truly special man.”
Ducey did not plan to announce his selection of a Senate successor to McCain until after McCain’s burial. Under state law, the governor’s appointee to serve until the next general election, in 2020, must come from the same political party.
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.
“He had a joy about politics and a love for his country that was unmatched,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told CNN’s “State of the Union.” ”And while he never made it to the presidency, in the Senate, he was the leader that would see a hot spot in the world and just say, we need to go there and stand up for that democracy.”