John Wayne Airport Could Be Renamed


Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A nine-foot bronze statue of John Wayne on a marble pedestal named “The Duke” stands tall within John Wayne Airport, overlooking the Thomas F. Riley Terminal. Commissioned by the John Wayne Associates, sculptor Robert Summers created the statue to honor John Wayne and his patriotism.

Aaron Sha, Features Editor

John Wayne Airport (SNA), the commercial service airport named after Western film legend John Wayne, may not be able to remain under the same name due to multiple petitions and media outlets advocating for the Orange County airport to be renamed on account of the rediscovery of the late actor’s racist and homophobic sentiments in early 2019.

The movement began in February 2019 and quickly gained traction among media as Wayne’s 1971 interview with Playboy magazine resurfaced, uncovering his less-than-progressive views on African Americans, Native Americans and supporters of the left-wing, to name a few. The interview sparked public outrage, and the petition for renaming the airport began, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“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,” Wayne said, according to the 1971 Playboy magazine interview.

However, as the year went on, the movement lost momentum, and public outcry died down, until columnist David Whiting of the Orange County Register reignited the debate with his recent article condemning Wayne’s past comments.

“When I drive by or fly out of John Wayne Airport, a place most of us simply refer to as ‘John Wayne,’ I don’t always think about the actor and his dark statements,” Whiting wrote. “But when I do, I am troubled. For many people it’s worse. Being forced to buy and carry around an airline ticket that unavoidably honors someone’s racism is an insult.”

Public opinion of the potential name change remains polarized, and a large portion of individuals in the discussion do not believe it necessary to rename the airport.

“If we change the name of the airport, we will be erasing the history of [John Wayne], who has contributed significantly to the local community,” senior Benjamin Kim said. “While his personal life and opinions are wrong today, things have changed since the past. And things will change in the future.”