A Lone Star State-inspired capsule collection marks the return of John Wayne Day—and Duke’s status as an honorary Texan.
Written by Wendy Bowman
Like millions of other folks worldwide, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick considers himself one of the biggest John Wayne fans in the world. Not only has the Lone Star lawmaker acquired several pieces of memorabilia related to the iconic actor through the years—most notably, a collection of items from the movie The Alamo that he displays in his outer office at the Capitol (now known as the “Alamo Room”)—but his family even has an annual Christmas tradition that involves playing the movie Rio Bravo while trimming the tree. So, when it came for the Texas State Senate to select someone for honorary Texan status back in January 2015, it’s no surprise that Patrick decided to wield his legislative power and suggest Wayne.
“Even though most of his movies were made in Mexico, Monument Valley [Utah] and California, people still see him and think of Texas,” says Patrick, who first fell in love with Wayne as a child while watching the actor’s Westerns with his father. “Many of his movies have Texas names and are connected to Texas cities. So, I thought, ‘Why don’t we make him an honorary Texan and tie it around his birthday in May?’ ” That idea resulted in officially adopting a resolution to designate May 26 (Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison on that day in 1907, in Winterset, Iowa) as “John Wayne Day” across the state for a 10-year period beginning in 2015. The Hollywood legend also was recognized as an honorary Texan, saluting him as the “prototypical American hero, symbolizing such traits as self-reliance, grace under pressure, resolve and patriotism.”
Although Wayne never lived in Texas and filmed only two of his approximately 140 movies there, his name remains synonymous with the state for his Texas-centric roots and mind-set. Perhaps the biggest thing connecting him to the state is The Alamo, the 1960 film that he directed, produced and starred in at the Alamo Village movie set and one-time tourist attraction north of the town of Brackettville. “The actual site of the Alamo in San Antonio is the No. 1 tourist site in Texas in large part because of The Alamo,” says Patrick. “Before the movie (one of the biggest-budget movies in history at that time), the battle was known by every Texan, but not universally around the world.”
Wayne went on to film only one other movie—Hellfighters—in Texas, but several of his movies were set there, including The Searchers (1956), Rio Bravo (1959), and the 60s-era westerns El Dorado, The Sons of Katie Elder, The Comancheros and The Undefeated. Many of his films also carry the name Texas in the title, like Texas Cyclone, The Lucky Texan, Texas Terror and Three Texas Steers.
“He personifies the attitude of Texans, who are independent, strong-willed, stand up for the little guy, refuse to quit, and fight for liberty and freedom,” says Patrick. “When you travel around the world and people ask you where you’re from, you say ‘Texas,’ not America. And if you say to anyone, ‘I’m from Texas,’ they say ‘John Wayne.’ John Wayne and Texas are just connected.”
Photos courtesy of John Wayne Enterprises (except where noted)