HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 4, 2009) – HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 3, 2009) – Holocaust Museum Houston will honor U.S. Sen. John McCain with the 2009 Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award this May in recognition of his outstanding record of military service and remarkable heroism in the face of extreme adversity.

U.S. Sen. John McCain

McCain will receive the award during the Museum’s annual dinner set for Monday, May 4, 2009. Registration begins at 6 p.m., with the dinner at 7 p.m. at the Hilton Americas-Houston, 1600 Lamar St., under the theme “A Hero’s Journey.”

The annual event – one of the city’s largest and most widely recognized philanthropic dinners – supports educational programs of the Museum that promote awareness of the dangers of prejudice, hatred and apathy against the backdrop of the Holocaust. Proceeds also enable the Museum to offer free admission to the public almost 365 days a year. More than 1,500 people attended last year’s dinner.

“We are honored this year to recognize an individual who has committed his life to making our world a better place, who has shown us the meaning of courage in action and who has exemplified bravery under the most extreme conditions,” Museum Chairman Walter Hecht said of McCain.

As the son and grandson of distinguished Navy admirals, McCain deeply values duty, honor and service of country. He attended college at the United States Naval Academy, and launched a 22-year career as a naval aviator upon his graduation.

On July 29, 1967, McCain narrowly survived the first of many near-death experiences during his lifetime while preparing to take off on a bombing mission over North Vietnam from his ship, the U.S.S. Forrestal. A missile accidentally fired from a nearby plane struck the fuel tanks on his plane.

Instead of taking the option to return home after the Forrestal disaster, McCain volunteered for more combat duty – a fateful decision that stopped the clock on his life and separated him from his family, and country, for five and a half years.

During his 23rd bombing mission on October 26, 1967, a missile struck his plane and forced him to eject, knocking him unconscious and breaking both his arms and his leg. McCain was then taken as a prisoner of war into the now infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was denied necessary medical treatment and often beaten by the North Vietnamese. He spent much of his time as a prisoner of war in solitary confinement, aided by his faith and the friendships of his fellow POWs. Displaying uncommon valor during his imprisonment, McCain refused early release, choosing instead to remain captive so that he could serve as leader and motivator to his fellow prisoners. When he was finally released and able to return home years later, McCain continued his service by regaining his naval flight status.

Senator McCain’s last Navy duty assignment was to serve as the naval liaison to the United States Senate. He retired from the Navy in 1981. His naval honors include the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In addition to his military service, the senator has a remarkable record of leadership and experience that embodies his unwavering lifetime commitment to service. First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona in 1982, he has fought to reform Washington, eliminate wasteful government spending and strengthen our nation’s armed forces. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, after serving two terms in the House. He was the Republican nominee for president of the United States in 2008.

Holocaust Museum Houston created the Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award in 1994 in cooperation with the Johnson family.

In 1938, as a young congressman, Johnson stretched the limits of his authority and risked his personal dreams to provide American sanctuary for threatened European Jews. It is because of these acts of moral courage that the Museum proudly named the award in his honor. The award recognizes either a single righteous act or a lifetime of morally courageous behavior.

Previous recipients have included television producer Norman Lear; the Houston community of Holocaust survivors; the late Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered by terrorists in Pakistan; activist Sir Bob Geldof; former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell; former U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Jr.; former U.S. Sen. Robert Dole; filmmaker Steven Spielberg; and former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, among others.

Chairing this year’s dinner are four of the city’s most respected charity fundraisers. Overseeing the effort are long-time Museum members Kelli and Martin Fein and Ileana and Michael Trevi