Will John Wayne's Name Remain on the Orange County Airport?

Statue honoring the Duke at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California. (Flickr)

The recent protests over the killing by police of George Floyd have widened into protests against any number of American icons—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and now John Wayne. On June 26, the Orange County (Calif.) Democratic Party passed a non-binding resolution calling for Wayne's name and imagery to be removed and the facility to be renamed Orange County Airport (its original name).

The resolution does not bear the force of law, but serves only as a statement of the county's Democratic Party view on the subject. Any name change would require legislation to be approved by the county Board of Supervisors. The current political makeup of the five-member Board of Supervisors is four Republicans and one Democrat. Currently, there is no proposed legislation about the airport's name pending before the board.

The airport, in the city of Santa Ana, was renamed John Wayne Airport in 1979 in honor of the actor, who lived nearby in Newport Beach. Wayne’s well-known conservative political views, though, haven’t helped his reputation in these modern times. And the “shoot from the lip” comments he was apt to make in his later years have only given ammunition to his modern detractors. Specifically, the county Democratic Party objected to comments Wayne made in a 1971 Playboy interview, which they have called racist.

An opinion piece published on June 23, 2020, “It’s Time to Rename John Wayne Airport,” in The Voice of OC website, reignited the debate three days earlier.

The article begins thus:

As Confederate statues and odes to Christopher Columbus are taken down across the country, Orange County must come to grips with its own tribute to a racially polarizing figure: John Wayne. The time has come to rename our airport and remove Wayne’s statue.


We believe the sentiments in the Voice of OC op-ed and the O.C. Democratic resolution by no means represent a majority point of view, either in Orange County or the nation as a whole. In fact, efforts in years past to remove Wayne’s name have failed. But there’s no reason John Wayne fans, including us here at John Wayne Speaks, should be unaware of the other side’s arguments. Be informed, then make up your own mind.

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