California lawmakers shoot down John Wayne Day for actor’s racist comments
Apr 29, 2016 06:49 AM EDT
California lawmakers voted down a resolution on April 28 to honor the late actor after opposition complained of his past racist comments. The resolution for John Wayne Day was introduced by Republican State Assemblyman Matthew Harper of Huntington Beach.
According to The Wrap, Harper submitted the notion to honor the legendary actor on his birthday on May 29. He described Wayne as the "prototypical American hero, symbolizing such traits as self-reliance, grace under pressure, resolve, and patriotism."
Wayne, whose real name is Marion Mitchell Morrison, is known to be one of the most popular Hollywood actors of his generation. He was awarded an Oscar for his work on the 1969 western film 'True Grit' and went on to epitomize rugged masculinity.
He was a prominent Republican and an avid supporter of the U.S. military. He was also a self-described socialist and conservative who supported anti-communist positions, according to Boise Weekly. During an interview with Playboy for their May 1971 issue, Wayne sparked widespread controversy over his opinions over mounting social issues and race relations in the United States.
Wayne was quoted on saying, "I believe in white supremacy, until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don't believe giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people... I don't feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves."
Opposing legislators quickly criticized Harper's resolution during a 20-minute debate at the Assembly calling the late actor a racist because of disparaging remarks against the African-American community, as well as other ethnic minorities like the Native Americans.
According to the Daily Mail, several Assemblymen expressed their concern over the tribute with Assemblyman Luis Alejo saying, "He had disturbing views towards race." Assemblyman Mike Gipson admitted that he found Wayne's racist comments offensive, while Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez complained that the actor defended white European violation of Native American land.
Other lawmakers supported Harper's resolution. Assemblyman Travis Allen said, "He stood for those big American values that we know and we love." Posthumously, Wayne received several awards such as the Presidential Gold Medal through President Jimmy Carter and the Naval Heritage Award by the US Navy Memorial Foundation.
The John Wayne Cancer Foundation was also founded in 1985 in honor of Wayne. It provides funding for continual cancer research and innovation as well as patient awareness and support programs.