Happy Birthday John Wayne (Posted 5/11/2015)

The birth name Marion Mitchell Morrison may not ring a bell, but the iconic John Wayne sure does. Tuesday would mark the 108th birthday of the Duke. He was a member of the Masonic family from DeMolay to Scottish Rite. Let’s go back in time and look at the life of the original cowboy.
 
He was born on May 26, 1907 to Clyde and Mary Morrison in Iowa. They would soon move to Glendale, California where he was active in the newly formed organization, DeMolay. He picked up the nickname Little Duke from locals since he never went anywhere without his airedale terrier, Duke. Preferring the nickname Duke to his birth name, it stuck for the rest of his life.
 
Duke attended the University of Southern California on a football scholarship. He lost his scholarship and dropped out of school before completing his pre-law degree after suffering an injury to his collarbone. Duke’s connections with the USC Football Coach Howard Jones landed him a job as a prop boy for silent western film star Tom Mix. He spent his first few years on different sets working as a prop boy and extra.
 
A young John WayneDuke was cast in his first lead role of the 1933 film, The Big Trail. As most actors do, Marion's real name was switched for the stage name John Wayne. The creation of the classic name was made by his director, without Marion's knowledge. After The Big Trail was considered a flop at the box office, John Wayne proceeded to take minor roles over the next few years. He acted in over eighty western films before his breakout role in the 1939 film Stagecoach.
 
With the coming of World War II, John was eager to enlist and serve his country. He was not drafted due to his age (34 by the attack on Pearl Habor) and his family status. Despite several efforts to enlist, he was constantly stonewalled by the stage and production companies. His service would ultimately come in the form of overseas trips with the USO.
 
Wayne's stardom was secured after performances in Shepard of the Hills (1941) and Reap the Wild Wind (1942). The iconic phrase "Pilgrim" came from his 1962 film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He would later go on to win the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in True Grit. His final film appearance was in The Shootist (1976).
 
Wayne succumbed to stomach cancer in 1979 and left behind a loving wife (third marriage) and seven children. He had requested that his tombstone read "Feo, Fuerte y Formal" which translates from Spanish to mean "ugly, strong and dignified."
 
John became a Master Mason in Marion McDaniel Lodge No. 56. He continued to be masonically active in the Valley of Los Angeles Scottish Rite and the Al Malaikah Shrine Temple.
 
There are few in our nation's brief history that invoke the emotional response when hearing the name John Wayne. He was a true American who believed in his morals and stuck to them.
 


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