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Grant Woods, close friend of Sen. John McCain and former Arizona attorney general, dies at 67

Woods gained national attention for his moving eulogy of McCain at 2018 memorial service in Phoenix.

ARIZONA, USA — Grant Woods, a former Arizona attorney general and longtime friend and confidant of Sen. John McCain, died of a heart attack Saturday.

He was 67 years old. 

“Grant was the love of my life. My best friend. My heart is broken," Woods' wife, Marlene Galan Woods, said in a prepared statement.

"I just cannot believe he is gone. I can’t believe our time together is over. He was the best husband, the best father anyone could have wished for.

“I am so proud of the man he was, public servant, advocate for the everyday person, lover of music and stories and sports. He made me a better person. I can’t even fathom our lives without him. But we are strong, and a close family and we will work hard to honor his life.”

Woods is survived by his wife and their five children. Funeral arrangements are pending. 

Current and former Arizona governors posted their tributes to Woods. From Gov. Doug Ducey:

Credit: Twitter

Former Gov. Jan Brewer tweeted that she and Woods didn't always agree, but he was an "honorable public servant who I will deeply miss."

Woods was co-chair of Brewer's 2010 campaign for governor. She had signed into law the controversial SB 1070 anti-immigration bill. Despite his campaign role, Woods came out against SB 1070, one of his many breaks with Republican orthodoxy.

Cindy McCain, John McCain's widow, said on Twitter: Grant "is laughing and joking with John now and watching over all of us": 

Woods was a graduate of Mesa's Westwood High School and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Occidental College in California. He earned his law degree from Arizona State University in 1979.

Woods was a lawyer, a playwright, a musician, and a regular at pickup basketball games and on the tennis court. 

He was the founder of the Mesa Boys & Girls Club, the Mesa Education Foundation and the Mesa Arts Academy.

Woods' greatest legal legacy is a landmark settlement in 1998 with major tobacco manufacturers, to recover health care costs for Arizona residents who use tobacco. 

Arizona has received more than $1 billion in settlement payments from cigarette manufacturers. The money helps fund Arizona's Medicaid program for low-income residents.

But it was Woods' relationship with McCain that would come to define his final years. McCain's death from brain cancer in 2018 vaulted Woods to national prominence.

Woods was widely praised for his moving eulogy at a memorial service in Phoenix.

Woods recalled his hiring after McCain won his first run for Congress in Arizona, in 1982:

"I was 28 years old, and I had only been a public defender, a few years out of law school. For some reason, John McCain asked me to be his chief of staff when he got elected."

They remained confidants and close friends until McCain's death from brain cancer in August 2018.

"It was a little harrowing, little wild, little crazy. But a lot of fun, and the greatest honor of my life," Woods said at the service.

The combination of McCain's death and the presidency of Donald Trump, who made McCain a target of his insults, prompted Woods to switch his party registration from Republican to Democrat and flirt with a run for McCain's old Senate seat in 2020. 

Woods eventually decided against a run. But he endorsed Democrats Kyrsten Sinema for the U.S. Senate in 2018 Joe Biden for president in 2020. Both Sinema and Biden won historic victories for Arizona Democrats.

In recent months, Woods had been critical of Sinema's apparent obstruction of the Democratic agenda. In a tweet Saturday, Sinema called Woods "a friend whose support meant so much to me":

Woods went on to become a regular guest on cable TV news, speaking out for disaffected Republicans and explaining Arizona politics to a national audience.

Woods shared McCain's pugnacious streak - neither of them would back down from a fight. 

His love of baseball and the Arizona Diamondbacks drew Woods into a spat with Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick this summer - and may have cost Woods his job at a Phoenix law firm.

Woods' response: "I’m happier on my own and, to be clear, he is a very poor owner and person. I will call them as I see them."

Watch Woods' nationally recognized eulogy to John McCain below: 

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