New Texas exhibit rocks legendary John Wayne’s cowboy hat
Ethan Wayne was just 17 when he lost his father, iconic American actor and filmmaker John Wayne. Now 59, he’s run an amazing exhibit that lets fans of his father tip their hats off memorabilia from the legendary “Duke” – and it’s in the Fort Worth Stockyards.
Called “John Wayne: an American experience,“ The 10,000 square foot exhibit is a part of the life of Marion Mitchell Morrison, known to fans the world over as classic western movie star John Wayne.
Opened in December at 2501 Rodeo Plaza, the museum features never-before-seen family photos, iconic movie props (like his collection of cowboy hats), letters from presidents and celebrities, and even his dark green 1976 Grand Safari. . (Fun fact: Wayne had the vehicle’s roof raised so he didn’t have to take off his cowboy hat at the entrance.)
Wayne says he never realized how many memorabilia his father had amassed until he joined the collection following the death of his older half-brother, who previously ran the family business, in 2003.
“I was like, ‘My God, we have a lot of really important memories here,’ he says. “I don’t think the rest of the family really knew that. From that moment on, we started to think about how we were going to find him a home.
An idea was born when Wayne met Craig Cavileer, executive vice president of Majestic Realty Co. (which developed Stockyards’ Mule Alley complex and the Drover hotel) at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas two years ago. Ethan had set up a pop-up museum there with a small sample of his father’s memorabilia – just to gauge interest, he said.
Cavileer convinced Wayne to visit Fort Worth and view the Stockyards as a permanent home for the John Wayne experience. It wouldn’t be the Wayne family’s first connection to Fort Worth. Ethan Wayne’s mother, Pilar, John Wayne’s widow, owned a cafe called Pilar’s on Bryan Irvin Road in 2006.
“Now that the Stockyards redevelopment is underway and coming to life, we’re really happy because it’s the perfect place for John Wayne,” he says.
A look inside
In the expansive gallery titled “Life on Screen”, guests take a tour of John Wayne’s long career. Notable pieces on display include both screenplay and Wayne’s Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1969 film. True courage, as well as numerous personal letters and telegrams from Carol Burnett and Jerry Lewis.
But it’s in the “America, Why I Love Her” gallery where guests get a glimpse into Wayne’s personal life and patriotism. On display is his President Jimmy Carter’s Medal of Freedom, his Congressional Gold Medal and his Grammy-nominated original poems.
One of Wayne’s most successful business ventures outside of the theater was breeding, which allowed him to escape Hollywood. He lobbied Presidents Nixon and Ford on behalf of American cattle ranchers and also helped develop more humane ways of feeding and handling cattle. His lifestyle as a breeder has helped define Wayne as a true Westerner.
Ethan Wayne says that after studying the many artifacts and memorabilia from his father’s life, it was very “revealing” for him to learn how much time he gave to other people, whether it was friends, family or strangers.
“He was a very good listener. He had very strong opinions, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to hear yours if you had a different opinion, ”he says.
John Wayne Day
John Wayne’s birthday is May 26, and in Texas the day is officially known as “John Wayne Day” thanks to a proclamation declared in 2015 by Governor Greg Abbott. This year the Wayne family was in Fort Worth to celebrate with a dedication from the museum.
The John Wayne exhibit itself is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $ 20.95 for adults and $ 16.95 for children 6 to 12 years old. Children 5 and under are free. Admission is not required for the exhibit’s retail store, which is stocked with limited edition clothing, books (including children’s books), Western fine art, leather goods, glassware, and western accessories.
“If you are curious [about his life], it will be a great place, ”says Ethan Wayne. “If you don’t know anything about him it will always be a great place because he is an inspiring person.”