Demand Grows for John Wayne Airport Name Change

It's not the first time these requests have been made — but this time they might stick

John Wayne
John Wayne in 1963.
Iberia Airlines/Creative Commons

In 1979, the Orange County Airport was renamed in honor of actor John Wayne; soon enough, a statue of Wayne, who died earlier that year, was added to the airport. What happens when an airport’s namesake turns out to have held some deeply unpleasant beliefs? John Wayne’s place in American history has been a difficult one to pin down as of late, especially after a 1971 interview with Wayne resurfaced in which he made racist and homophobic comments.

That Wayne’s beliefs were far from progressive is hardly news — but the controversial interview did spark debate around the airport’s name. Now, as 2020 abounds with examples of statues toppling and buildings named for controversial and hateful figures being renamed, John Wayne Airport is again a topic of heated debate.

At Variety, Ellise Shafer writes about a renewed call for the renaming of John Wayne Airport. In this case, the call has come from the Democratic Party of Orange County, who passed a resolution earlier this week to that effect. Shafer offers more specifics:

Submitted by Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, along with Chapman University professors Fred Smoller and Dr. Michael A. Moodian, the resolution “condemns John Wayne’s racist and bigoted statements,” calling them “white supremacist, anti-LGBT and anti-Indigenous.”

The resolution asks the Orange County Board of Supervisors to return the airport to its original name.

It’s not the first time that the airport’s name has been up for debate, but there’s also plenty of momentum this time out in support of the calls for change. When air travel is back to relative normalcy, might you be flying to Orange County Airport? It’s very possible.

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