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Have Orange County Supervisors Reignited the Debate Over Renaming John Wayne Airport?

An effort by Orange County supervisors to come up with new logos for John Wayne Airport has seemingly reignited the long simmering debate over Wayne, his views on race and whether he’s still the right fit for a local airport in an increasingly diverse metropolitan county.
Last week, a story by Voice of OC – about county supervisors voting to spend $50,000 to develop a new logo for the airport – sparked a flurry of online comments and emails noting the logo debate missed an important wrinkle.
The supervisors’ discussion revived calls from two years ago to rename the airport, citing John Wayne’s comments in a 1970s interview that he “believe[s] in white supremacy.”

After last week’s article on the airport logo initiative, Anaheim resident Gabe Gayhart wrote an email to Voice of OC saying the airport’s name should be changed, calling Wayne a “cowboy from the cowboy and Indian era in a racist time.”
“It’s time we honored our true heroes and got rid of the names of racist anti Native American, anti-African American (read the John Interview in Playboy) actors,” wrote another reader, who asked that their name not be published.
Others chimed in on Instagram with calls to scrap Wayne’s name from the airport.
“If they spend $50k it better be to drop the John Wayne moniker,” wrote Aliso Viejo resident Aimee Monahan.
“Just call it Santa Ana or Orange County Airport,” she added.
“Absolutely [expletive] not. I’d be on board if they used that money to change the name,” wrote another reader.
“John Wayne was a r@cist. Screw him and anyone that thinks his views on people of color were acceptable,” added another.
“Rename it to what it ALREADY is in the airport code (SNA) to the Santa Ana Airport or at least call it the Orange County Airport.
In summer 2020, following the police murder of George Floyd, the county faced calls from local professors and the OC Democratic Party to rename the airport.
They cited a 1970s interview of Wayne in which he said: “We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.”
“I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves,” he added.
The OC Republican Party and then-President Donald Trump opposed the renaming effort, which ended up getting no traction among county supervisors.
“We can remember the good things that John Wayne did for this nation and Orange County. We can and do condemn what he said in that 1971 magazine interview. So, we can also learn from his imperfections,” wrote OC Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker at the time.
“Iconography is about enshrining the larger ideals of good from their lives, not the flaws. Those goals are best served by keeping our history in front of us, not by destroying it to serve the radicalism and frenzy of the present moment,” he continued.
The county GOP chairman wrote efforts to remove people like Wayne from public spaces was driven by similar mindset that drove the Nazis.
“The totalitarian ideology that drives the current desire to destroy our nation’s past has a dark and troubled history across the world,” Whitaker wrote.
“From the guillotine of the French revolution to the Bolshevik gulags, to Nazi concentration camps, to the Cultural Revolution in China, to the human burnings and beheadings of ISIS, history is replete with totalitarian movements that insist upon demonizing groups of people, defacing statues and erasing all symbols of the past.”
Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner says he continues to oppose removing Wayne’s name from the airport, noting the actor’s “iconic Americana profile” and saying he was starly different from the Confederate leaders whose statues were removed in the wake of Floyd’s killing.
“Unlike John Wayne, Confederate leaders are memorialized in bronze and stone only because of their despicable views and treason against America,” Wagner wrote in a text message to Voice of OC late last week.
“In addition, Wayne did not say in that article that minorities were irredeemably inferior, but only that their attainments at the time were, in his wrongheaded view, inferior. He held out the explicit view that educational achievements he felt then lacking were in fact attainable,” Wagner continued.
“Again, that contrasts with Confederate leaders who believed in the inherent inferiority of minorities,” he added.
“As wrong as Wayne was in his views set out in the magazine, he is not celebrated at the airport for those views. Renaming the airport would show us to be a society incapable of drawing that principled distinction, and consigning each person to judgment based on their worst days rather than on the totality of their lives.”
Asked for her view, Supervisor Katrina Foley said she hasn’t received any calls recently to change the airport’s name and that her priorities are elsewhere.
“My priority right now is addressing operational, structural, and environmental issues at the airport, including the new concessions program, millions in deferred structural maintenance, assisting the small pilots being priced out, and onboarding our new airport director Charlene Reynolds, who has done an excellent job,” Foley said.
The other three supervisors didn’t return messages for comment.
It remains unclear how Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett came to pick Laguna College of Art and Design for the $50,000 logo update, as opposed to design programs at other Orange County colleges or opening up to a countywide competition.
Bartlett didn’t return a phone message for comment.
Foley – who proposed the $50,000 project alongside Bartlett – said she was simply going along with what Bartlett proposed.
“This was all Lisa’s suggestion as she was using her [federal COVID response] funds to support the school in her district.  I’ve supported the schools in my district in other ways,” Foley said in a text message to Voice of OC.
“We sit on the ad Hoc committee for the airport together so when she asked if I would support, I agreed. The logo is ancillary to the funding for the college. If the board majority doesn’t like the proposals then nothing changes.”
As for the name, Fred Smoller, a Chapman University professor who wrote a 2020 op-ed calling for the airport to be renamed, says the airport should reflect Orange County’s diversity – and that Wayne’s comments undermine that.
“The county is much different than when the Duke lived here,” said Smoller, referring to Wayne by his nickname, in an interview late last week.
“[The airport is] a major public building and the name should reflect the new Orange County, and the fact that it’s a diverse county. We have Wayne’s quotations that are quite racist. And that sort of thing is not reflective of who we are, and more importantly who we aspire to be,” he added.
“Those are not our values.”

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John Wayne

John Wayne Pushed Through a Severe Injury to Ensure ‘The Train Robbers’ Premiered on Schedule

John Wayne is known around the world as one of the most iconic cowboys of all time. Decades after his death, John Wayne continues to be praised for his nearly 200 unforgettable appearances in film and television. And though his larger-than-life presence, good looks, and husky voice took him far in Hollywood, it was his commitment to his films that led to John Wayne playing such a large role in cinema history.

The Duke began his career in 1926. As time went on, the stoic superstar developed a reputation as a stunt man. Many of his Westerns involved action-heavy scenes, and the technology to make stunt work easier to fake didn’t yet exist. As such, many legendary John Wayne films were extremely physically demanding.

Hiring a stunt man was an option used by many in Hollywood. But The Duke refused. Instead, he insisted on doing his stunts himself. Though this was an admirable step to take, it led to many injuries for Wayne throughout his career.

The audience knew that the hero would win in the end, but reaching victory often involved getting punched, kicked, shot, and stabbed along the way. He was even blown up and crushed by a bulldozer (on separate occasions, of course).

John Wayne Filmed ‘The Train Robbers’ With Broken Ribs

Perhaps the most horrifying injury of John Wayne’s career occurred on the set of the 1973 Western The Train Robbers. In the film, Wayne plays the starring role of Lane, the leader of a group of cowboys hunting down a dastardly train robber.

According to the John Wayne biography entitled Duke by Ronald L. Davis, The Duke broke two ribs mere days before filming began on The Train Robbers. As Wayne was an irreplaceable star, the injury led to a rearranging of the film. Rather than focusing on high-speed chases and deadly battles between cowboys and outlaws, The Train Robbers honed in on dialogue and character building.

That said, it was still a Western, and every Western needs a certain amount of action. For The Duke, it was essential that “the action scenes looked believable”. Wayne was so committed to his scenes that he flat-out refused to work around his injury. “He wasn’t a crybaby,” his wife Pilar Wayne told The LA Times. “He could tolerate pain.”

And tolerate pain, he did. John Wayne pushed through the broken ribs, determined to keep the film as close to the original script as possible. While filming, he was clearly limited with his movements and he appeared somewhat ill on set.

On-screen, however, no one could tell the difference. The Duke still gave a fantastic performance. Three years later, his Hollywood career came to an end, but John Wayne will always be remembered as the tough-as-nails actor he truly was.

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John Wayne

Original Cast of John Wayne’s ‘The Cowboys’ to Celebrate Film’s 50th Anniversary With The Duke’s Family

The career of John Wayne is one of the most revered in all of American filmmaking regardless of genre. Even long after his death, his unmatched contributions to the Western film genre are still a thing of legend.

John Wayne: An American Experience, The Cowboy Channel, Stockyards Heritage, and Hotel Drover have partnered up with the members of the cast of The Cowboys and Wayne’s family. Together, they will host a celebratory festival in honor of the 50th anniversary of the fan-favorite film. The official John Wayne Instagram page announced the event by paying tribute to one of Wayne’s many iconic moments.


“In honor of the 50th Anniversary of The Cowboys, celebrate with members of the original cast & the Wayne family June 24, 25, & 26 in the Fort Worth Stockyards! For a list of events and tickets, head to JohnWayne.com”

The 1972 film is based on the book of the same name by William Dale Jennings. Wayne stars alongside Roscoe Lee Browne, Slim Pickens, Colleen Dewhurst, and Bruce Dern. The Cowboys tells the story of a down on his luck rancher being forced to hire a group of inexperienced cowboys to get his herd to market on time. It’s one of Wayne’s most enduring films with his performance often regarded as one of his best.

The Cowboys Still Holds A Special Place in Hearts of Film Fans

Fans of the film will no doubt be thrilled by the opportunity to hear directly from the people who worked and lived alongside Wayne during the making of the classic film. One member of the cast, A Martinez who played Cimarron, took to his own Instagram account to post a message about his experience shooting The Cowboys for its 50th anniversary.


“It was a thrill and an honor to be a part of this project,” said Martinez in his post. “A haunting, timeless theme, adapted from the novel by William Dale Jennings, brilliantly directed by Rydell. With gorgeous cinematography by Bob Surtees, an indelible score by John Williams –– and a great performance by John Wayne –– the power of #TheCowboys abides.”

The 3-day celebration includes outdoor screenings after sunset on the Livestock Exchange lawn all three nights. Fans will have meet and greet opportunities with 9 members of the cast. Then, A live televised film panel with a studio audience will film at The Cowboy Channel Studio Sunday night. In addition, there will be special installations and reception at John Wayne: An American Experience, a sprawling 10,000 square foot exhibit providing an intimate look at the life of The Duke.

Any fan of John Wayne who can make it to Fort Worth, Texas for this celebration of a beloved piece of Wayne’s filmography should purchase tickets as soon as possible. Relive the memories of this classic film alongside cast members and Wayne’s family with the special event.

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John Wayne

This John Wayne Western Almost Starred Elvis Presley

When you hear the names Elvis Presley and John Wayne, the word icon undoubtedly comes to mind. Although they were famous figures in their own right, they had more in common than you might think. For instance, they nearly starred alongside one another in one of Wayne’s many westerns.

As the undisputed King of rock ‘n’ roll, Presley became a worldwide viral sensation for his gyrating hips and rock-n-roll music. Yet, he also dipped his toes into the world of movies.

He had performed in various movies like King Creole and Blue Hawaii in the past. In addition, he had some Western movie experience when he starred in Love Me Tender. According to IMDb, the movie is a Western set during the end of the American Civil War.

Elvis plays the role of Clint Reno, the brother of a Confederate soldier who becomes involved in a train robbery. The movie was released in 1956, just as Elvis became a rising star. As a result, he grabbed the attention of another acting veteran.

Love Me Tender was the hitmaker’s first movie role. Little did he know, John Wayne was watching at home. As a result, Wayne decided he wanted to collaborate with the rising star.

Elvis Presley’s manager decides on True Grit role

Billy Smith, Elvis’ cousin, once answered whether John Wayne asked Presley to star with him in a movie more than once. According to Smith, via his Youtube channel, co-starring alongside Wayne wasn’t Presley’s style, or rather, it wasn’t his manager’s preference.

Billy Smith, Elvis’ cousin, once answered whether John Wayne asked Presley to star with him in a movie more than once. According to Smith, via his Youtube channel, co-starring alongside Wayne wasn’t Presley’s style, or rather, it wasn’t his manager’s preference.

As Smith described, anytime anyone wanted to collab with The King, it was “always carried through Colonel.” Presley was at the height of his fame around this time. According to Smith, “Colonel didn’t want him to play … second star with anybody else.” 

Sadly, Presley would miss out on the role of LeBoeuf. In addition, he wouldn’t get to join forces with one of the genre’s most beloved figures. Glen Campbell would instead take on the part. 

However, maybe the decision happened for a better reason. When the film was released in 1969, it was a critical moment for Presley’s career. In December of 1968, just before True Grit premiered, Presley embarked on his now-legendary “comeback special.” In 1969, he delivered almost 60 performances at the magnificent International Hotel in Las Vegas. 

During this whirlwind of a year, Presley proved the point of his manager: Elvis Presley would play second fiddle to nobody, even John Wayne. 

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