An Intimate Look at the Life of America’s Top Cowboy

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John Wayne to visit the Fort Worth Stockyard via new exhibit making its debut during the 2020 holidays.

Written by Wendy Bowman

Visitors to the historic Fort Worth Stockyard will have chance to get a rare inside look at the on- and off-screen life of “The Duke” courtesy of the new John Wayne: An American Experience exhibition. Set to open Dec. 4 and run for the next three years, the display will occupy a 10,000-square-foot space at the attraction, complete with seven interactive rooms highlighting a different aspect of Wayne’s legacy.

“The Fort Worth Stockyards are the epicenter for all things Western,” says Ethan Wayne, the youngest son of the legendary actor, who chose the site of the show in conjunction with Patrick Gottsch, founder and president of the Cowboy Channel and RFD-TV, on the heels of last year’s successful John Wayne: Spirit of the West exhibit in Las Vegas. “The Stockyards is undergoing an extensive redevelopment, with all the top-tier Western brands coming in, terrific hotels, live music venues, chefs creating new culinary experiences and all kinds of rodeo events at the coliseum, so we thought it was the perfect opportunity to bring John Wayne there; they’re calling the exhibit the ‘Jewel of the Stockyards.’ ”


“The Stockyards is undergoing an extensive redevelopment, with all the top-tier Western brands coming in, terrific hotels, live music venues, chefs creating new culinary experiences and all kinds of rodeo events at the coliseum, so we thought it was the perfect opportunity to bring John Wayne there; they’re calling the exhibit the ‘Jewel of the Stockyards.’ ”

— Ethan Wayne, president of John Wayne Enterprises

Attendees can expect a behind-the-scenes tour of the acclaimed actor’s life, including his early childhood growing up in Iowa and storied career, time as a cattle farmer, and relationships with his family and great American leaders. “It’s a real intimate look at America’s favorite movie star,” says Ethan. “All of these items have been under lock and bolt for the last 50 years, many never seen before by the public.”

Along with clips from Wayne’s famous Westerns, the exhibit also will feature scripts, rare family photos and correspondence, iconic props and costumes used in his films, awards and much more. Film buffs will be especially interested in the extensive “Life on Screen” gallery—with eight pillars taking visitors through his career in detail—while the “America, Why I Love Her” gallery will highlight Grammy-nominated original poems recited by Wayne.

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Photo John R. Hamilton

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“It’s a real intimate look at America’s favorite movie star. All of these items have been under lock and bolt for the last 50 years, many never seen before by the public.”

— Ethan Wayne

Among the must-see artifacts, according to Ethan: a station wagon customized with a high roof by the late automotive designer George Barris specifically to accommodate Wayne’s hat. “I haven’t seen the car since the mid-70s, and to walk in and see it brought back a lot of great memories for me,” he says.

“John Wayne is still loved by tens of millions of people around the world,” adds Ethan. “He appreciated and cared about his fans, and he realized that without them, he was nothing. They gave him the opportunity to live the life he led, and he never forgot them or that fact. I’m sure he would be happy to know that people are still interested in him and excited to see this personal exhibit.”

Fans in town for this year’s edition of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo set for Dec. 3-12 at Globe Life Field in nearby Arlington might be particularly interested in the Wayne exhibit at the Stockyards, which will host numerous rodeo-related events. The exhibit will be open daily from 7 a.m.-10 p.m., with special discounted rates for veterans, as Wayne was a proud supporter of American troops.

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