• Industry

Texas Honors John Wayne’s 50-Year Career with a Museum

Marion Robert Morrison might not be a name that resonates with audiences as a star in the galaxy of Hollywood, but, when according to legend, director Raoul Walsh advised the Winterset, Iowa native to change his moniker to benefit his career, the icon that is John Wayne was born.

With a career that started in the 1920s and encompassed more than 175 film and television roles through the 1970s, Wayne epitomized the image of the rugged American male, especially in western and war films such as Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Searchers, The Quiet Man and the role that would land him a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actor, True Grit.

Now his more than 50-year career gets a showcase in Fort Worth, Texas with the recent opening of the John Wayne Museum, an impressive and eclectic collection of personal and professional memorabilia that chronicles the impact of the man known as ‘Duke.’


His youngest son, Ethan Wayne, has been at the forefront of the gallery and talks about how the museum came to be and what he and the family envision for the collection.

Why was this the right time for a museum?

In the last few years, we’ve hosted interactive pop-up exhibits in both Nashville and Las Vegas. The turnout we had was incredible. After seeing the impact John Wayne still has, we knew we wanted a more permanent location. Then it was just about identifying the right space. Patrick Gottsch introduced us to Craig Cavileer and they took us down to Fort Worth to show us what was happening in the stockyards. Once we saw their vision for the stockyards, we knew that it was the right place for John Wayne.

How did you decide which items to display at the museum?

Well, we tried to model the exhibit in a way that felt reflective of my father. Each room embodies who he was as a man through each major chapter of his life. All the pieces you see on display we felt best represented who he was during that particular chapter. To be honest, it’d be really easy to have an exhibit solely dedicated to his film career, but we wanted the fans who came through to walk away with a more holistic view of who he was as a person, both on-screen and off.


How active are you in the museum?

Very. Amy Shepherd and I and the John Wayne team, along with our partner, Patrick Gottsch of RFDTV, oversaw the design and development, and my family and I were very involved with the curation of each item on display. Since we own and operate it, we travel to Texas all the time.

Will the exhibits be permanent, or will other things rotate in?

The exhibit, in large part, will be permanent, but we’re collecting and discovering items both in the John Wayne archive and at auctions all the time. As new pieces come up, we’ll make sure they find a home in the museum.


Did your father ever talk to you about a potential museum and what he hoped future film fans might get from viewing his artifacts?

The only legacy my father insisted on was helping to find a cure for cancer. We started the John Wayne Cancer Foundation after his passing and have been hard at work collaborating with doctors and medical professionals since then. There is an entire room at the exhibit that highlights the efforts we’ve made so far and how much more we hope to accomplish.