John Wayne's lifelong leading role as American patriot celebrated at Fort Worth museum


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A legendary American actor’s love affair with the United States is retold today in the heart of Fort Worth, Texas. 

John Wayne: an American Experience opened in Dec. 2020 in the Forth Worth Stockyards. The museum is devoted to the life of the legendary film star, national icon and unabashed patriot. 

The museum sits in a perfect location for the performer famed for his starring roles in the biggest western films of all time, including “Fort Apache,” “El Dorado” and “Rio Bravo.”

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It faces Cowtown Coliseum, one of the nation’s premier rodeo venues, and is steps from Billy Bob’s Texas, the sprawling nightclub and live-music venue that dubs itself “The World’s Largest Honky Tonk.”

Dad was super popular in his lifetime and he’s still popular today,” son Ethan Wayne, one of the family members who operates John Wayne Enterprises and the museum, told Fox News Digital. 

John Wayne album

“America, Why I Love Her,” was a spoken-word 1973 album by actor John Wayne. The legendary actor’s deep patriotism is celebrated at John Wayne: An American Experience in Fort Worth, Texas. The museum opened in Dec. 2020 in the Fort Worth Stockyards.  (Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

“Every time you saw John Wayne you went on an adventure with him. But you also saw him make tough decisions and put self-respect over financial gain,” said his son. “He made moral choices rather than poor choices. Sprinkled in with those lessons, you got adventure, humor, toughness and compassion.”

Wayne wore his American heart on his sleeve with a blend of fierce toughness and deep compassion, his son said. He displayed both on movie screens around the world. 

His career, perhaps unmatched, headlined half a century of films that spanned the Golden Age of Hollywood. 

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Wayne was born Marion Morrison in Iowa in 1907, his father a Civil War veteran. He was raised in California. 

He was a star athlete at Glendale High School, stunningly handsome and, at an imposing 6-foot-4 inches tall, earned a spot on the University of Southern California football team. 

He focused on acting after injuries cut short his sports career; while just a teenager, he had already earned uncredited and extra roles. 

John Wayne mural

A mural is shown at John Wayne: An American Experience, a museum in Fort Worth, Texas. “America, Why I Love Her” was a 1973 spoken-word album by the actor.  (Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

He appeared in 36 films by age 25 — with 100 more productions to follow.

John Wayne: the American Experience lists all of them, from “Bardelys the Magnificent” in 1926, to his 1939 star-making performance in “Stagecoach” and his last film, “The Shootist,” in 1976. 

Wayne died in 1979, at age 72, after battling cancer.

“You ask me why I love her? I’ve a million reasons why.”

The museum displays images and memorabilia spanning the entirety of the actor’s career, with insight into his life off the screen.

Wayne emerged as a larger-than-life entertainment figure and an American folk hero. He became a symbol of the nation itself — both here in the United States and around the world. 

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The actor returned the nation’s loving embrace. At the center of John Wayne: the American Experience are displays of his patriotism.

Wayne entered the 1970s at the top of his career. He won the 1970 Academy Award for Best Actor — his first and only Oscar — playing Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 western “True Grit.”

John Wayne Musuem

John Wayne: An American Experience in Fort Worth, Texas, celebrates the career and the patriotism of one of the most popular actors in American history.   (John Wayne Enterprises)

In 1973, he earned a Grammy nod from the recording industry for his performance in the spoken-word album of poetry, “America, Why I Love Her.” 

He also released a children’s book of the same name. 

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“You ask me why I love her? Well, give me time, and I’ll explain. Have you seen a Kansas sunset or an Arizona rain? Have you drifted on a bayou down Louisiana way? Have you watched the cold fog drifting over San Francisco Bay?” Wayne booms with stirring conviction in the album’s title track. 

He says at the end of the poem: “You ask me why I love her? I’ve a million reasons why. My beautiful America, beneath God’s wide, wide sky.”

Fprt Worth, Texas

The Chisholm Trail ran through Fort Worth, Texas. This marker is situated between John Wayne: An American Experience and rodeo venue Cowtown Coliseum in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Right, a rodeo rider gets ready to compete at the Coliseum.  (Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

The words were written by James Mitchum, brother of actor Robert, who appeared with Wayne most recently in the 1970 western “Chisum.”

But they spoke deeply of Wayne’s own heartfelt faith in the nation, its people and the unmatched opportunity it has given many millions of people around the world. 

“He made that album coming out of the trials and the tribulations of the 1960s, and he believed that America was made up of all kinds of different people who all had a lot of things in common,” said Ethan Wayne. 

“He believed a lot of his success was because of America and that belief really meant a lot to him.”

“Most of us came here from different backgrounds but with common goals and common dreams to be free and to pursue our own happiness,” said the son. 

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“You know, he came from pretty humble beginnings — but he was able to achieve an incredible amount of success. He believed a lot of his success was because of America and that belief really meant a lot to him.”

John Wayne: An American Experience recently completed a 4,000-square-foot expansion. It hosts a three-day festival later this month ending on May 26, celebrating what would have been the actor’s 117th birthday. 

John Wayne

John Wayne: An American Experience is a museum in Fort Worth, Texas, that celebrates the life and patriotism of the legendary American actor.  (Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

Ethan Wayne believes some of his father’s perpetual popularity stems from the fact that many people see in him a personification of the United States itself.

“My father was smart, he was articulate, but he had this larger-than-life and bold personality,” the son said. 

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“He was very kind and loving and very gentle. But he had the capacity to be tough and violent if he needed to be. But he didn’t want to be if he didn’t have to be. He was reliable, consistent, worked hard, had a positive attitude and believed in right and wrong.” 

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