By Den Ardinger 32° KCCH
John Wayne, known by many simply as “The Duke”, was born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa on May 26, 1907. He was the son of Clyde Leonard Morrison and Mary Alberta Brown. In 1916, when he was 9 years old, his family moved to Glendale, California. It was here he joined the Glendale DeMolay Chapter and began an early interest in Freemasonry.
He excelled academically and in sports and entered the University of Southern California on a football scholarship. His football career was cut short, unfortunately, after he broke his collarbone that forced him to quit football as well as drop out of college. With his athletic physique, and being 6’ 4 ½”, he began his career in Hollywood as a prop man moving equipment and sets around as needed. He was spotted by director John Ford who began using him in bit parts in films he was making. One of his first bit roles was as a football player.
His first part as a leading man came in 1930 when he was cast with Marguerite Churchill in The Big Trail where he played his first role as a cowboy. Unfortunately, the film was a financial flop and he played only bit parts in the years that followed. His rise to stardom began in 1939 when he was again cast as a cowboy in the classic film, Stagecoach.
Wayne was 34 when World War II broke out and he was exempted from service due to his age. He toured bases and hospitals in the South Pacific in 1943 and 1944. He applied for service but the studio would not release him from his contract at the time. It is said that he always regretted not serving on active duty during the war and tried to make up for it the rest of his life by supporting veteran’s causes and frequently touring and visiting hospitals.
John Wayne became a Master Mason in July 1970. He was initiated an Apprentice on July 9th, passed to Fellowcraft on July 10th, and raised a Master Mason in Marion McDaniel Lodge No.
56 in Tucson, Arizona on July 11th. His Masonic career also included belonging to the York Rite, Al Malaikah Temple in Los Angeles as a Shriner, as well as being a 32° Scottish Rite Mason.
He married three times and was divorced twice. He had four children with his first wife, Josephine Alicia Saenz, and three more with his third wife, Pilar Pallete.
For five decades he starred in one film after another, most of them Westerns or war movies. Each took him a little higher in Hollywood appeal. In the end, he had 179 film credits to his name including movies and television. Over his career he was awarded an Academy Award and nominated for two others. He won two Golden Globe Awards and was honored for another along with one Grammy Award.
He was awarded the DeMolay Legion of Honor in 1970 and inducted into the DeMolay Hall of
Fame posthumously in 1986.
In 1979, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and posthumously awarded the
Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Carter in 1980.
In his later years he suffered from cancer and fought it for fifteen years before finally succumbing to it at the age of 72. He died in Los Angeles, California on June 11, 1979. In 1985 the John Wayne Cancer Foundation was created to provide research and support cancer groups.
Brother John Wayne, more than a man…a Mason.
Quote on John Wayne’s grave in Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach, California