John Wayne Airport Name Change Faces Scrutiny

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In 1979 The Orange County Airport located in Santa Ana, California was renamed John Wayne Airport to pay tribute to the one of the county’s most notable resident. Born in Iowa but raised in California, John Wayne made the Orange County city of Newport Beach his home. Born Marion Robert Morrison, he went on to star in about 86 movies, win three Oscars, and in 1980 was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter. However, after a Playboy Interview reemerged critics of the American Icon are now urging for the airport named after him to be reconsidered. In the interview, Wayne expressed his opinions on gay people, black people, Native Americans, young people, and liberals. The meeting was conducted in 1971 at John Wayne’s Newport Beach home.

When asked what films he thought were inappropriate, Wayne responded by saying “Oh, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy — that kind of thing. Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two fags, qualifies?”. The interviewer then went on to ask if he felt empathy towards the American Indians since they played such a significant role in the western movies, he was well known for. He responded with “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”.

It was publicly known that John Wayne was a Republican Conservative. His ideas may have been welcomed at the time of the interview since Orange County was also known as a “red county.” Today that is no longer true. This past November the county elected an all-Democratic congressional delegation. The airport is also located in an ethnically diverse community so for a 9-foot bronze statue of the actor to be standing tall in the lobby of the airport seems somewhat ironic. It is also ironic how a quote from the same 1971 interview was also engraved into Wayne’s tombstone.  

The late actor’s family defended him by saying that the quotes were taken out of context and that it is unfair to judge the words of someone who is not alive to justify themselves.

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