Carol Shepp McCain, John McCain’s First Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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Carol Shepp McCain was Senator John McCain’s first wife, a woman who has been the source of quite a bit of controversy over the years whenever McCain’s past is brought up. She was severely injured while he was a POW, and he met his wife Cindy while he and Carol were still married. Although their divorce received a lot of negative coverage, the two were actually very amicable and had a friendly relationship when McCain passed away. In fact, Shepp had supported all his political campaigns. Read on to learn more about Carol Shepp McCain.


1. She Was a Swimsuit Model Before She Had a Devastating Car Crash

Carol grew up in Philadelphia and had a successful career as a runway model for Jantzen swimwear while she lived in Philadelphia. Being 5’8″, she was the perfect height for her job. She was working a a model when she and John McCain married in 1965. But in 1969, she suffered a car crash that left her with severe internal injuries and a shattered pelvis and left arm. It was December 24, 1969, and she skidded on the ice, hitting a telephone pole. She was thrown from the car and was found hours later.

She was in the hospital for six months and much of her bone had to be cut away in order to save her legs, The Daily Mail reported. She was left in a wheelchair, and eventually learned to walked again. She’s lost quite a bit of height since that accident, standing at 5’4″ and still has a limp today. When they were divorced, John McCain agreed to pay all her medical expenses for life. Carol has said that their divorce had nothing to do with her accident. She said he simply wasn’t ready to be 40 and still desperately wanted to be 25.


2. John McCain Adopted Her Two Children and They Had a Daughter Together

GettyCindy McCain (4th L), wife of Republican U.S presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), stands with children (L to R) Meghan, Andy, Jimmy, Jack, Doug, Bridget, and Sidney during day four of the Republican National Convention (RNC) on September 4, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

John and Carol first met when he was in the Naval Academy. In 1958, she married one of his classmates, Alasdair Swanson, and they had two children: Douglas and Andrew. But they divorced in 1964 and she sued Alasdair for infidelity.

She and John met again in 1964 and began dating. They married on July 3, 1965 in Philadelphia. The very next year, he adopted Douglas and Andrew. In 1966, they gave birth to their daughter, Sidney. After he was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, she raised their children with the help of friends and family. She sent him frequent packages, but few actually were given to him. She never told her husband about her car accident, because she didn’t want to burden him even more.


3. He Met Cindy McCain While He and Carol Were Still Married

In his 2002 memoir, John said that he and Carol were separated before he and Cindy started dating. But Los Angeles Times journalists discovered that he and Cindy were still living together in January 1980, after he and Cindy had been dating for nine months. John and Cindy married five weeks after Carol and John were divorced.

John McCain regretted his actions during that time period. He said that ending his first marriage was “my greatest moral failure.”

At the time, friends said they had no idea their marriage was in trouble. But the divorce itself was amicable and John gave Carol full custody and agreed to pay alimony and child support, along with Sidney’s college tuition.


4. John and Carol Later Became Friends and She Supported His Campaigns

There was no bitterness between John and Carol. In 2008, she talked to the Daily Mail because she wanted to publicly show her support for John and his presidential campaign. At the time, she even had a John McCain sticker on her car.

He’s a good guy. We are still good friends. He is the best man for president.”


5. She Once Said About Working for the White House Visitors Office: ‘I’m Always in Tears But I Love This Job’

Carol was very close to former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan. During the divorce, Nancy arranged for Carol and Sidney to live with the family of Edwin Meese, The Washington Post reported. Nancy later named Carol head of the White House Visitors Office when Ronald Reagan was elected President. Carol was great at her job. She expanded the Easter Egg Roll attendance and planned national Christmas activities. In 1981, she was director of the Reagans’ inaugural ball.

She once said about her job at the White House: “I’m always in tears, but I love the job. I’m really having a ball.”

In 1991 after the Gulf War, she was spokeswoman for a committee that held a victory celebration in D.C. She later worked for the National Soft Drink Association.

In 2003, Carol retired. Today, she’s retired and living in Virginia Beach. And although she never remarried, friends said she had a lot of boyfriends, many whom fell head over heels in love with her.