Sen. John McCain working in his Capitol Hill office after the first week of battle in the Senate debate on his proposed campaign finance reform bill.
Christopher Morris—VII for TIME

A Look at John McCain’s Life of Service in Photos

Photos of the senator, the war hero, and the maverick
August 26, 2018

If one is interested in brevity, it is an extreme challenge to find the words that encapsulate the political career of John McCain, who died Saturday at the age of 81.

A former war hero, a congressman, a senator and a presidential candidate, McCain’s tenure in Washington spanned more than three decades. Over that time, he earned a reputation as a conservative lion who would put his principles over party, even if it would cost him the more ephemeral victory, as it did in the 2000 Republican primary.

It’s easy to cast McCain, especially posthumously, as a larger-than-life figure. But doing so would betray just how present the man was. Even as he struggled with the illness that would eventually take his life, he would walk the halls of the Capitol — his workplace since he was first elected to serve Arizona in the House of Representatives in 1982 — with an affable ease, never too busy or proud to stop and chat with the reporters who lingered in the corridors, hanging onto his every word.

The photos below paint a portrait of McCain’s political career — one simply too vast for any simple abbreviation.

John McCain, (front, right) with his squadron in 1965.
Library of Congress/AP
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain prepares to speak at a rally held at the Indianapolis International Airport in Indianapolis, on Nov. 3, 2008.
Christopher Morris—VII for TIME
Sen. John Kerry chats with Sen. John McCain in Washington in 1997.
David Hume Kennerly—Getty Images
Sen. John McCain talks on the phone before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Then Navy Lieutenant Commander John McCain lying on a bed in a hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam in 1967.
AFP/Getty Images
At a pre-dinner reception, US President Richard Nixon (1913 - 1994) greets former North Vietnamese prisoner of war Lieutenant Commander John McCain, in Washington DC, on May 24, 1973.
White House Photo Office/PhotoQuest/Getty Images
Sen. John McCain campaigns in Charleston, S.C. on April 26, 2007.
Chirstopher Morris—VII
John McCain holds a town hall meeting at a National Guard armory in East Greenwhich, Rhode Island, on Jan. 18, 2000.
David Hume Kennerly—Getty Images
President-elect Barack Obama addresses the Bipartisan Dinner honoring Sen. John McCain in Washington on Jan. 19, 2009.
Zbigniew Bzdak—Chicago Tribune/MCT/Getty Images
Presidential candidate John McCain with his family and members of his campaign team watching the progress of the state primary in N.H. on Feb. 1, 2000.
David Hume Kennerly—Getty Images
Sen. John McCain and wife Cindy greet supporters at a campaign rally at the Fairmont Dallas hotel on March 4, 2008.
Rick Gershon—Getty Images
Vice President George H.W. Bush re-enacting Senate Swear-In with Sen. John S. McCain and his family.
Cynthia Johnson—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty
Sen. John McCain on board his private plane during presidential campaign stops in S.C. on April 26, 2007.
Christopher Morris—VII
Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley and Sen. John McCain at Fort Myer where McCain was honored with the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal for over 63 years of dedicated service to the nation and the U.S. Navy on Nov. 14, 2017.
Alex Wong—Getty Images

Correction Sept. 4

The original version of this story incorrectly referred to Sen. John McCain’s military rank in two photo captions. He was a Lieutenant Commander, not a Major or Captain, at the time both photos were taken.

Write to Kim Bubello at kim.bubello@time.com.