Duke gets his day: May 26 is John Wayne Day in Newport Beach


It’s a date, pilgrim.

With little discussion, the Newport Beach City Council on Tuesday unanimously signed off on a resolution designating May 26 each year as John Wayne Day, a tribute to the legendary late movie star who called Newport home.

At the start of the council meeting, city officials presented the Wayne family with the resolution.

“Newport Beach is a community that my father loved,” Wayne’s son Ethan said in a statement. “I know that if he were here today he would be humbled by such an incredible honor and excited that the legacy that he built will be forever remembered on John Wayne Day.”


The council’s decision came about a month after a resolution for a similar honor statewide failed to gain traction with lawmakers in Sacramento.

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Newport Beach Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Muldoon asked city staff this month to place a resolution on the council agenda to designate May 26, Wayne’s birthday, in the actor’s name. Muldoon also was born May 26.

Wayne represented a special era in Newport Beach that many residents recall fondly, Muldoon said.

John Wayne is pictured in "Rio Lobo," a film from 1970.
(File photo)

“He’s an inspiring leader to me, and I’m humbled to be able to do this,” Muldoon said.

Wayne, known as “Duke,” a nickname he picked up as a boy in Glendale, is famous for his rugged cowboy roles in films including “The Alamo” and “True Grit,” for which he won an Academy Award in 1970.

Wayne moved to Newport Beach in the 1960s and lived there until he died of complications from cancer in 1979 at age 72.

Even before Wayne lived in Newport, he frequented the city. He lost a football scholarship with USC after he was injured body surfing near the Balboa Pier.

Wayne’s local legacy is present in many ways. He’s buried at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar; his beloved yacht, Wild Goose, is still anchored in the harbor; and Orange County’s airport bears his name and a 9-foot-tall statue of him in one of its terminals.

“He symbolized all that is great in America and our city — strength, freedom and love of country and family,” Muldoon said. “It is only fitting that we should honor such a great man.”

In late April, state Assemblyman Matthew Harper, a Huntington Beach Republican who also represents sections of Newport Beach, introduced a resolution that sought to declare May 26 as John Wayne Day statewide.

However, the Assembly voted down the resolution, 35-20, after several legislators took issue with statements Wayne had made about racial minorities and his support for the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee and the John Birch Society.

“He had disturbing views toward race,” Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) said during the April discussion.

Alejo cited a 1971 interview with Playboy magazine in which Wayne spoke disparagingly about African Americans.

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

But several lawmakers called Wayne an American hero whose family created the John Wayne Cancer Foundation after his death.

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN