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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anti-African American (read the John Interview in Playboy) actors,” wrote another reader, who asked that their name not be published.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.”

John Wayne

John Wayne’s Cause of Death and His Last Words

John Wayne is a legendary Western movie star who the world will always recognize for his contributions to the medium. However, his final words on his deathbed didn’t have anything to do with movies or his career. Rather, he used them to speak sentimental, heartfelt words aimed at his daughter, Aissa Wayne, who stayed at his bedside.

John Wayne’s cause of death was stomach cancer

John Wayne wearing a cowboy hat

John Wayne | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

According to History.com, Wayne died on June 11, 1979, of stomach cancer at the age of 72. However, it wasn’t his first encounter with cancer, as he fought it for more than a decade. Unfortunately, the doctors reported that the actor was too weak to begin chemotherapy and experimental treatment, which the actor approved of.

Wayne coined the term “The Big C” for cancer in 1964. He ultimately needed to have his left lung and four ribs removed. Wayne seemed to recover at the time, despite regularly being short of breath. However, he didn’t stop his habit of smoking and chewing tobacco regularly, which certainly didn’t help with his situation.

John Wayne’s last words were to his daughter, Aissa Wayne

Outsider confirmed that Wayne was surrounded by his family during his stay in the hospital. He was never left alone, as the doctors tried to do all they could to strengthen his physical state. However, their efforts ultimately failed. Wayne spent his last days before his death in and out of consciousness.

Wayne’s name is generally associated with a tough sense of masculinity, but he also had a sentimental side of him. These stories particularly come from his family, including Wayne’s final words.

Wayne’s daughter, Aissa, was at his bedside at the time of his death. She was holding her father’s hand and asked him if he knew who she was. He responded with his last words, “Of course, I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”

‘The Shootist’ was his final acting role

Wayne’s final movie role before his death was starring as J.B. Books in The Shootist. The film follows his character, who is an aging gunfighter who has cancer. He heads to Nevada and rents a room from the widowed Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) and her son, Gillom (Ron Howard). Many folks confront Books for various reasons involving his notoriety. However, Books doesn’t plan to die quietly but will go out with a bang.

Wayne surprised critics and audiences with his performance, as many folks previously believed that he simply played himself in all of his roles. However, he wouldn’t ultimately earn an Oscar nomination for his role.

Wayne earned his first two Oscar nominations for Sands of Iwo Jima and The Alamo. However, it wouldn’t be until 1969’s True Grit that he would finally earn the golden statue. Many of his fans still believe that he deserved to get an Oscar nomination for his final work on The Shootist.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Miserable’ Because of ‘Venomous Remarks’ on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Western genre went through a series of changes over the years. However, John Wayne will always remain one of the most iconic depictions of the Western film genre with performances in big titles, such as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Unfortunately, he didn’t have such an easy time on the set. Wayne had a “miserable” time filming because of John Ford‘s “venomous remarks.”

John Wayne played Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard shouting at assembly

L-R: John Wayne as Tom Doniphon and James Stewart as Ransom Stoddard | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance follows Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) as he returns to a small town for a funeral. The press questions his arrival, but they’re about to hear the story of his connection to a local man named Tom Doniphon (Wayne). The story brings audiences back in town when Tom saved Stoddard from Liberty Valance’s (Lee Marvin) crew of outlaws. However, Stoddard and Tom are the only two willing to stand up to him and his crew.

Wayne’s performance in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is iconic. He once again delivers his Western charm along with his repeated use of the line “pilgrim.” As a result, popular culture continues to refer back to the legendary actor’s performance.

John Wayne was ‘miserable’ because of John Ford’s ‘venomous remarks’ on the set

Wayne worked with Ford on many films, including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. However, the filmmaker often targeted Wayne with “venomous remarks,” verbally attacking him. Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth detailed some of the comments that Ford made toward the actor, which really made him angry.

“But the most damage Ford did was to the friendship me and Duke Wayne might have had,” co-star Woody Strode said “He kept needling Duke about his failure to make it as a football player, and because I had been a professional player, Ford kept saying to Duke, ‘Look at Woody. He’s a real football player.’”

However, the comments didn’t stop there. Ford brought up Wayne not serving in the military while on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As a result, he praised Stewart’s service. This is a particular weak spot for the actor, who deeply regretted not serving in the military when he had the chance.

Strode continued: “It’s like he’d needle him about whatever reasons he had for not enlisting in the war by asking Jimmy, ‘How many times did you risk your life over Germany, Jimmy?’ And Jimmy would kind of go, ‘Oh, shucks’ or whatever, and Ford would say to Duke, ‘How rich did you get while Jimmy was risking his life?’ … What a miserable film to make.”

‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ goes down as one of the best Westerns of all time

Ford never came forward with a specific reason for verbally attacking Wayne on the set of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Perhaps it was to get a better performance out of the actor. However, it clearly left an impact on the cast and crew.

Fortunately, that didn’t negatively impact the finished product. Wayne fans often assert that The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of the best Western films of all time. It continues to impact filmmaking to this day. The film only earned an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, but it remains a classic that many viewers rewatch.

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John Wayne

John Wayne Was ‘Ready For a Fight’ With His ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ Co-Star

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is one of John Wayne‘s most iconic roles. However, he didn’t have the most enjoyable time behind-the-scenes. Wayne’s frequent collaborator, John Ford, gave him a difficult time. As a result, he was “ready for a fight” with co-star Woody Strode, who once explained the severity of the situation.

John Wayne plays it tough as Tom Doniphon in ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance finds Wayne playing a local man named Tom Doniphon in a small Western town. Senator Stoddard (James Stewart) comes into town for his funeral, which confuses the press. However, the distinguished man tells the story of how Tom helped protect him against a crew of outlaws led by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).

Moviegoers embraced Wayne’s signature dialogue delivery. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance includes one of Wayne’s most iconic words: “pilgrim.” He repeatedly calls Stewart’s Stoddard this, which was an insult within the time period. Nevertheless, Tom maintains Western masculinity as shown in both his narrative and the way the actor plays the part. The character is typically accompanied by his handyman, Pompey (Strode)

John Wayne was ‘ready for a fight’ with co-star Woody Strode

Michael Munn’s John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth chronicles the iconic actor’s career, including his work on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ford repeatedly harrassed Wayne on the set with rude remarks that intentionally pushed his buttons. However, the actor took it out on Strode.

“This really pissed Wayne off but he would never take it out on Ford,” Strode said. “He ended up taking it out on me. We had one of the few outdoor scenes where we hightail it out to his ranch in a wagon. He’s driving and I’m kneeling in the back of the wagon. Wayne was riding those horses so fast that he couldn’t get them to stop. I reached up to grab the reins to help, and he swung and knocked me away.”

Strode continued: “When the horses finally stopped, Wayne fell out of the wagon and jumped off ready for a fight. I was in great shape in those days and Wayne was just getting a little too old and a little too out of shape for a fight. But if he’d started on me, I would have flattened him. Ford knew it, and he called out, ‘Woody, don’t hit him. We need him.’”

However, Wayne ultimately calmed down to allow them to continue filming. Nevertheless, Strode felt that “miserable” tension on the set as a result of Ford’s behavior.

“Wayne calmed down, and I don’t think it was because he was afraid of me,” Strode recalled. “Ford gave us a few hours’ break to cool off. Later Wayne said to me, ‘We gotta work together. We both gotta be professionals.’ But I blame Ford for all that trouble. He rode Wayne so hard, I thought he was going to go over the edge. What a miserable film to make.”

James Stewart has top billing on ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance ultimately gives Stewart top billing over Wayne in all of the promotional materials. However, the film itself and the theatre marquees place Wayne’s name above his co-star. Some audiences contemplate which role is truly the main character of the story, as they both experience hardship and change.

However, neither actor would get an Oscar nomination for their performances in one of the greatest Western movies ever made. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance only earned a nomination for Best Costume Design, although it lost to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Nevertheless, the movie remains a vital part of cinema history.

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