No John Wayne Day: California Rejects Duke Day, Claims Cowboy Legend Was Racist

John Wayne Day was supposed to be a simple piece of legislation that would set aside a special day to honor the legendary actor, but the bill sparked a heated debate and turned into something else entirely.

The California State Assembly voted down the John Wayne Day bill citing concerns of racism. Democrat Assemblyman Luis Alejo said the Duke had “disturbing views towards race,” the Denver Post reports.

Alejo referenced a 1971 interview with Playboy magazine, where the True Grit star was quoted making comments about black people. Assemblyman Mike Gipson, who is black, said he found Wayne’s comment during the four decade’s old interview “personally offensive.”

“I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people,” John Wayne was quoted as saying to Playboy.

Fellow Democrat and state lawmaker Lorena Gonzalez feels John Wayne’s thoughts about European explorers pushing Native Americans off of their land were equally offensive. Gonzalez claimed the Duke once said American Indians were “selfishly” trying to keep the land in the West only for themselves.

Republican California State Assemblyman Matthew Harper sponsored the John Wayne Day bill. Harper wanted to declare the Duke’s birthday, May 26, as the special recognition date. The resolution was defeated in a 35-20 vote, Fox News reports. Assemblyman Harper said saying no John Wayne Day could take place was a result of the “orthodoxy of political correctness.”

“Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the free enterprise system and the Fourth of July,” Harper said in a press release.

The cowboy actor was born in 1907. Wayne, born Marion Michael Morrison, grew up in Glendale, California. He picked up the Duke nickname as a young boy when some firefighters at a fire house near his home dubbed him “Little Duke,” referencing his loving relationship with their dog, Big Duke.

“Posthumously, John Wayne was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But perhaps John Wayne’s greatest legacy was his dying wish, which was that his family and supporters use his name and likeness to help the doctors fight cancer, a wish that led to the creation of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (JWCF) in 1985,” according to the John Wayne website. “Over the years, JWCF has supported research by funding the creation of the Cancer Institute that bears his name, education programs, awareness programs, and support groups.”

The Duke is also credited with playing a significant a role in getting the United States Senate to ratify the Panama Canal Treaties in 1977. Wayne was a big supporter of the military and often worked on causes that benefited both veterans and those currently serving their country.

The John Wayne Day resolution, ACR137, was authored by Assemblyman Harper to keep pace with the steps Texas lawmakers took last year to commemorate the Duke’s birthday. Harper’s district is home to John Wayne Airport in Orange County. The massive airport was named in Wayne’s honor shortly after his death and includes a nine-foot-tall statue bearing his likeness.

Multiple California lawmakers heralded John Wayne’s work with the cancer foundation and referred to him as a true American hero. The decision by the state to honor former President Franklin Roosevelt in spite of interning Japanese Americans during World War II was also discussed during the John Wayne Day debate.

“He [John Wayne] stood for those big American values that we know and we love,” Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen said.

What do you think about the no John Wayne Day decision by California lawmakers?

[Photo by File/AP Images]