Local News

Raleigh man remembers serving with McCain in his early years

Posted August 26, 2018 10:18 p.m. EDT
Updated August 27, 2018 10:07 a.m. EDT

— Owen Horton now lives in Raleigh but served with John McCain at a Naval base in Jacksonville, Fla., before talk of politics or presidency. To Horton, McCain was "skipper."

"I just remember the first day I met him. He was a shorter guy with a real bad limp and a real bad left arm," Horton said.

McCain's war hero reputation had followed him to Jacksonville, where he was a squadron commander and Horton's boss.

"I was sitting in his office and he said, 'Are you my cruise cut yeoman?' And I went, 'Yeah,' and I was standing at attention, and he hit me on the arm and said, 'Let's make the best of it.' I was about to fall over, and he looked at me and went, It's going to be a blast,'" Horton said.

And it was. The commander turned out to be a caretaker too.

"Every other week I'd drive back home and he'd go, 'Horton, I'm gonna get you out of here early today and do you have spending money for gas?' That's what i remember," he said.

Horton's job was to take classified documents from aircraft manufacturers and get them to Commander McCain.

It would be decades until Horton worked for him again. This time, both men were out of the Navy and McCain was running for president.

"Well, I had 65 people that were calling, aggravating people at the supper table, you know how it goes. Get the vote out calling, will you vote for John McCain over George Bush," Horton said.

And McCain even called to thank him for his campaign efforts, later sending him something he'll now hold onto forever - an autographed copy of his book.

They last time they spoke was in 2000. Horton says he called McCain "Skipper" on the phone and he laughed.