John Wayne: Another Reason Airports Should Not Be Named After People
After being named after John Wayne since Wednesday, June 20, 1979 — or slightly greater than 41 years — the international airport which serves Santa Ana and Orange County in California may undergo yet another name change because of some controversial comments which have been attributed to the actor in an interview with Playboy Magazine from back in May of 1971.
John Wayne: Another Reason Airports Should Not Be Named After People
“Most people familiar with the life story of John Wayne are aware that the late movie star was a dyed-in-the-wool right-winger — after all, he was still making a movie glorifying America’s conduct of the Vietnam War (“The Green Berets,” 1968) well after the country had begun to get sick of the conflict”, according to this article written Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times. “But the resurrection of a 1971 interview Wayne gave to Playboy magazine has underscored the sheer crudeness of the actor’s feelings about gay people, black people, Native Americans, young people and liberals.”
Believing that the time has long past to remove the name John Wayne from the name of the airport, Hiltzik noted that the remarks found in the interview with Playboy “doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s impossible or immoral to enjoy westerns and war movies starring John Wayne; that’s a personal choice. But it certainly undermines any justification for his name and image to adorn a civic facility.”
When John Wayne died on Monday, June 11, 1979, Orange County Airport was renamed in his memory only nine days later.
What John Wayne Purportedly Said
The statements excerpted from the aforementioned interview with Playboy Magazine which were attributed to John Wayne are with regard to the topics of:
I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves.
Movies were once made for the whole family. Now, with the kind of junk the studios are cranking out. … I’m quite sure that within two or three years, Americans will be completely fed up with these perverted films.
Oh, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy — that kind of thing. Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two fags, qualifies?
With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.
I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.
I’m not gonna give you one of those I-was-a-poor-boy-and-I-pulled-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps stories, but I’ve gone without a meal or two in my life, and I still don’t expect the government to turn over any of its territory to me. Hard times aren’t something I can blame my fellow citizens for. Years ago, I didn’t have all the opportunities, either. But you can’t whine and bellyache ’cause somebody else got a good break and you didn’t, like these Indians are. We’ll all be on a reservation soon if the socialists keep subsidizing groups like them with our tax money.
All of the members of the Board of Supervisors of Orange County in California are expected to consider changing the name of the international airport at its next meeting — as well as removing a statue which was erected in his honor from the airport property — on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.
Other Reasons Airports Should Not Be Named After People
John Wayne was the professional name of the actor who was also known as Duke. His birth name was Marion Robert Morrison; so the airport was technically named after more of a persona than the actual person.
After 14 years as Bob Hope Airport, the name has changed back to Hollywood Burbank Airport — a name this airport in California has not been officially called since 1978 — and the name change was precipitated primarily by reports that people from east of the Rocky Mountains did not exactly know where Bob Hope Airport was located…
…but that is another of the reasons why airports should not be named after people.
I wrote this article on Monday, December 18, 2017 pertaining to Chick-fil-A opening on a Sunday in order to provide greater than 2,000 chicken sandwiches and bottled water to passengers who were stranded at the international airport which serves the greater Atlanta metropolitan area because of a fire which knocked out electrical power and closed the airport for approximately twelve hours.
Chick-fil-A has been closed on Sundays since it was founded in 1946 by the late Truett Cathy — I had the pleasure of meeting both him and his son Dan — to allow employees a day of rest and worship; so opening on a Sunday is quite unusual for the company…
…but extraordinary circumstances prompted Dan Cathy to implement an exemption to the policy, which was covered by this article written by John Eades for Inc. — who used the name “Hartsville-Jackson International Airport” to refer to the international airport which serves the greater Atlanta metropolitan area.
Hartsville-Jackson International Airport? I am not sure that neither William Berry Hartsfield — who was mayor of Atlanta twice — nor his descendants would be too thrilled to read that.
Should John Eades have be taken to task for not taking more care in attempting to use the correct name for the airport in Atlanta — or is what he did understandable if you believe that Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is simply a ridiculously long name?
One thing is for certain, at least in my opinion: that error would likely never have occurred if the name of the airport was shortened or simplified to Atlanta International Airport instead of named after people…
Why Name Airports After People?
As I first did in this article last year, I am going to give you a little quiz — and please do not use any aid or assistance in deriving the answers, as they should be strictly confined to your knowledge and memory.
Please tell me who are the following people and for what they are known:
- Edward O’Hare
- Fiorello Henry La Guardia
- Edward Lawrence Logan
- Benigno Simeon “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
- Henri Coandă
- Ben Elbert Douglas, Sr.
- Donald Sangster
- John Foster Dulles
- Francisco de Sá Carneiro
- Lester B. Pearson
- William R. Hopkins
- William P. Hobby
- Gerald R. Ford
- Jorge Newbery
- Eugene M. Bradley
- Benito Juárez
- Pat McCarran
You probably know who are one of those people listed — perhaps more than one. Chances are, however, that you are not familiar with all of the names on that list other than the fact that international airports are named after them.
People should not be idolized by naming airports and highways — and erecting monuments and statues — after them, in my opinion. In many cases, doing so creates more problems than solving them; and perhaps they should be destroyed.
I have asked this question before — specifically, in this article: what is the point of naming an airport after someone? Why must naming airports be more complicated than necessary? Why not just name it after the destination it serves, as with Hollywood Burbank Airport? That practice would be significantly less expensive, reduce political wrangling, practically eliminate controversial issues — and writing out the full name of the airport would overall be easier:
- Denver International Airport
- San Francisco International Airport
- Miami International Airport
If possible, I would even consider changing the airport codes to reflect going back to basics:
- Chicago International Airport — CIA
- New York International Airport — NYI
- Boston International Airport — BIA
- Cairo International Airport, which is already CAI
In locations with more than one airport, perhaps differentiate them by either purpose or direction:
- Houston International Airport
- Houston Domestic Airport
- Houston Airport East
These name changes address the issue to which Lucy M. Burghdorf alluded: with the aforementioned name changes, people would know which cities or locations those airports served.
I wonder how Fiorello Henry La Guardia would have felt if he knew that the airport which was named after him brought negative thoughts to the minds of many travelers.
Although I personally did not think that Bob Hope was all that funny, I do respect his work as an actor and as a comedian. To me, he should be remembered through the very media he helped to transform: his movies and television shows — not by the renaming of an airport. He also pioneered entertaining the military — even when times were gloomy.
Similar to Hollywood Burbank Airport, I personally believe that John F. Kennedy International Airport should go by its original name: New York International Airport. The name says it all. It is simple and to the point. That is so much better than its subsequent names, one of which was Idlewild Airport. What is an Idlewild, anyway? Is that what happens when an airplane engine races uncontrollably while the aircraft sits on a tarmac?
Going one step further — in my opinion — all areas served by a single airport should have that airport named after that area — such as Atlanta Airport, Memphis Airport, or Miami Airport. Why use the word international, anyway — other than as a differentiator from another airport within its proximity from which flights do not serve international locations? “Oh, I would much rather use that airport because it has the word international in its name.”
I will be the first to admit that Brian Cohen International Airport does not quite smoothly roll off the tongue; nor does BCIA or Brian Cohen Expressway. I am not sure I want something named after me to be run over by millions of cars per year or have some Boeing 747-800 airplane land on it — and be marked with oil splatters and skid marks — and even though my bodily functions currently operate normally, I really do not want people to say that the Brian Cohen is “backed up” again…
…but after reading the aforementioned quotes which are attributed to John Wayne, I would say this is yet another argument against naming airports after people — even though he had a right to express his thoughts and opinions. The practice of naming airports after people generally serves no use to anyone other than whom the airport was named and those people who are related to that person — and even then, no one will know who the person was or what the name means after a few generations have elapsed…
All photographs ©2007, ©2009, ©2014, and ©2015 by Brian Cohen.