Local Activists Call for a New Name for John Wayne Airport


The Orange County airport is currently named for the actor John Wayne, but local activists say that should change in light of racist comments Wayne made during his lifetime.

“I believe in white supremacy,” John Wayne, the famous Western actor, once said. This has now sparked a controversy over whether he should continue to have the Orange County airport named after him. 

Local Democrats in the Orange County area are calling to change the name of the John Wayne Airport, located in Santa Ana, and have been since 2017 with various peaceful protests at the airport. They use the power of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to spread awareness about the topic as well. 

Activists say they are tired of seeing Wayne’s name on the airport after finding racist quotes from the 1930s through the 70s. As an example, Mr. Wayne said in an interview with Playboy magazine that he believes in white supremacy and refused to acknowledge that institutional racism exists. Hence, protesters argue he is not deserving of having an airport named after him, and protesters also say that he justified the stealing of Native American land. According to CNN, protesters claim that if Mississippi can remove the confederate symbol from its state flag, Orange County should be allowed to rename the John Wayne Airport. They also claim that John Wayne is like “Orange County’s confederate statue.”

Those who do not support the name change argue that Wayne was alive in a racist time, and we can’t judge people for acting like they were taught to do. John Wayne’s son has defended his father, arguing that the Playboy interview was taken out of context. Wayne was given the honour for his works as an actor, with some of his most popular movies being Rooster Cogburn, The Cowboys and The Train Robbers, as well as many other Western-style movies. He lived on Balboa Island, close to the formerly named Orange County Airport. 

 While some feel strongly about removing John Wayne’s name from the airport, in the end, the decision is up to the government. A recent report by the Orange County Board of Supervisors implies that the name change of John Wayne Airport is not at the top of their agenda, but residents who feel strongly about the issue can sign duelling petitions circulating online, one calling for removing Wayne’s name and the other calling to preserve it.