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.

Gay People

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?

Black People:

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.

Native Americans:

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.

fire truck atlanta airport

Photograph ©2009 by Brian Cohen.

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.

Towns named Hartsville do exist in both Tennessee and South Carolina — but I do not beleive that they are located close enough to the airport in Atlanta to justify the “name change.”

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:

  1. Edward O’Hare
  2. Fiorello Henry La Guardia
  3. Edward Lawrence Logan
  4. Benigno Simeon “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
  5. Henri Coandă
  6. Ben Elbert Douglas, Sr.
  7. Donald Sangster
  8. John Foster Dulles
  9. Francisco de Sá Carneiro
  10. Lester B. Pearson
  11. William R. Hopkins
  12. William P. Hobby
  13. Gerald R. Ford
  14. Jorge Newbery
  15. Eugene M. Bradley
  16. Benito Juárez
  17. Pat McCarran
Ninoy Aquino Manila International Airport

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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
Delta Air Lines bankruptcy emergence “fly by” Salt Lake City

Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

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
Cairo International Airport terminal

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

In locations with more than one airport, perhaps differentiate them by either purpose or direction:

  • Houston International Airport
  • Houston Domestic Airport
  • Houston Airport East
Madrid Airport terminal

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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.

10 thoughts on “John Wayne: Another Reason Airports Should Not Be Named After People”

  1. jello says:

    I agree. And in my opinion, neither should blogs.
    This blog would serve the same purpose if it was just called, “The Gate.”

  2. derek says:

    I agree that politician worship is too much, that most airports shouldn’t be named after people, some aviators should be honored with named airports.

    I can also answer many of the names without looking them up.
    O’Hare – World War II Navy ace, killed in the Pacific. Known as Butch O’Hare. A fine name for ORD.

    LGA – Mayor of New York who pushed for an airport, now LGA, within the NYC city limits

    Logan – General, I believe from the Spanish-American War.

    Aquino – went to MNL to become head of state and shot to death at the airport

    Coanda – ?????
    Douglas – mayor of Charlotte, NC, USA
    Sangster – one of the early Prime Ministers of Jamaica
    IAD – influencial Secretary of State under Eisenhower. A fine name, in my opinion, much better than Reagan DCA. If Reagan’s name is used, LAX is more appropriate.

    Hopkins – this is funny. Wasn’t he the airport manger? I know he was some airport employee. Detroit honors airport employees and members of the board. Davey Terminal, Berry Terminal, McNamara Terminal were all in that category.

    Hobby – Governor of Texas
    Ford – President between Nixon and Carter
    Newbery – founder of the Argentine air force
    Bradley – not sure, possibly an aviator
    Juarez – not the first president of Mexico but the first after the empire was disbanded in the 1860’s.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I am impressed, derek!

  3. derek says:

    Forgot about Lester Pearson, the liberal PM of Canada. Carniero, I don’t know.

    Some of the “what’s wrong with this picture” series should have an answer posted after awhile.

  4. Chris@oak says:

    Meanwhile, SFO names a terminal after the martyred Harvey Milk. His political career was started and funded by Jim Jones, of The Peoples Temple.
    (As was Willie Brown, Diane Feinstein, George Moscow….and many SF Democrats.)

  5. Ghostider5408 says:

    Look at some point all this has to slow down take a deep breath and think about what people are doing.

    You can not know where your going unless you know where you came from, period. If we continue on this path we need to change everything named after George Washington for example he had slaves, so erase his name for everything in this country, same goes for Jefferson and on and on.

    I agree there are racial issues in this country and the world but erasing history for the sake of political correctness will harm society in the future. I come from a part of history that has been beaten, gassed, slaughtered throughout history so no one has to tell me about discrimination.

  6. Chuck says:

    I wouldn’t have an issue with the airports being named after the locations they serve and not after people. The only issue with that is that many of the locations are named after people…… I’m not defending any of the people but then we should also eliminate all other buildings and structures that are named after people. That would make everyone happy until they figured out a way to be outraged about the new names.

  7. Barry Graham says:

    We should not judge people for what they said 50 years ago using today’s standards. Even if we should, ,most people say things that are wrong at one time or another. I don’t think we should be going back and examining what everyone said at one stage or another. If by now they are not known as bad people, they most likely are not. We should not be destroying landmarks and removing names from schools, roads, buildings, airports, etc.

  8. Steve Austin says:

    The JFK Airport was not called New York International. It was called Idyllwild prior to JFK. And Boston is already BOS. That’s part of Boston in case you missed it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.