Staff at John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Iowa respond to calls for renaming John Wayne Airport

Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 7:32 AM CDT
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WINTERSET, Iowa (KCCI) - California lawmakers are calling for the removal of John Wayne’s name and statue from an airport in Orange County.

They said it’s because of some comments the Iowa native made that are considered racist and bigoted.

The actor made the comments in an interview with Playboy Magazine in 1971.

Brian Downes is the executive director of the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset.

He also worked as a newspaper reporter who spent time with Wayne. He says he wishes the actor had not made the comments and adds this is not the first time that interview has resurfaced.

“I think all of us would have preferred it hadn’t of happened, but that’s not the same to say, ‘we apologized, he didn’t mean it.’ That would be disingenuous,” Downes said.

Patricia Barker works at the museum and said she found it hard to believe some of the things said came from Wayne’s mouth, but is not surprised people felt that way.

“What happened back in the day is part of our history. We have to know where we come from to get better,” Barker said.

For that to happen, Barker is not sure the place to start is renaming an airport.

“Tearing down a statue or tearing down a name is not going to change anything. We have to change as a people,” Barker said.

Downes said if the decision is made to change the name of the airport, there is a place for the statue at the museum.

See the full story, including the quote from John Wayne’s 1971 interview, on KCCI’s website.

Copyright 2020 KCCI. All rights reserved.

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