Summary

John Wayne was a Presbyterian most of his life, but converted to Catholicism on his deathbed.

He was a flag-waving, anti-commie, conservative Republican.

Editorial

John Wayne, whose real name is Marion Mitchell Morrison, was born in Winterset, Iowa but grew up in southern California near Los Angeles.

Wayne was raised a Presbyterian with a Scotch-Irish bloodline.[1] One of his sons claims that he was not religious.[2] But another says he would hand-write letters to God.[3] Whether particularly religious or not, Wayne married three devout Catholic women in his life, and all seven of his children were raised Catholic.[4]

He apparently converted to Catholicism a few days before his death.[5] He did not, however, convert to the Crystal Cathedral congregation after receiving a note from a girl with a broken leg, despite rumors.[6]

It's possible that this turn towards Catholicism on his deathbed had been a long time coming. After all, he was surrounded by Catholics his whole life–between his wives, children, the priests who were in and out of the house,[7] and his friends.[8] Or he could have been a very sick man who was not terribly aware of what he was doing. In either case, it appears he was baptized,[9] and so according to the Catholics, he won't be spending an eternity in hell.

Everybody's favorite Republican

John Wayne was a committed conservative Republican, a role he was keen to discuss in public and play in his films. From his portrayals of the rugged individual in his westerns to the American commie-fighting hero in war films, Wayne acted on film what he idealized in real life.

His political views stemmed from his patriotic fervor:

Sure I wave the American flag. Do you know a better flag to wave? Sure I love my country with all her faults. I'm not ashamed of that, never have been, never will be.[10]

He was attracted to the rugged individualism of nineteenth century America–a country where opportunity abounded if you were willing to pull yourself up by your bootstraps.[11] But his was not a worldview that included food stamps and social security:

I don't think a fella should be able to sit on his backside and receive welfare. I'd like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living.[12]

When anti-commie fever broke out after World War II, Wayne jumped right on the bandwagon. He was a founding member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals[13] and also, for a time, a member of the controversial John Birch society.[14] His fervent hatred of all things communist also led him to support the Vietnam War–which didn't win him any friends in Hollywood.[15]

Not surprisingly, he was and is a favorite of the Republican party. He spoke at the Republican National Convention in 1968 during Nixon's first successful bid for the presidency.[16] And Republicans are still talking about him as the ideal representation of their party.[17]

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