Marion Robert Morrison was born in Winterset, Iowa. Years later, renamed John Wayne, he would become a legendary American icon.
After graduating from high school, Wayne wanted to attend the Naval Academy. Instead he accepted a full scholarship to play football at the University of Southern California. His football coach was often able to get his players summer work in the movie industry. Wayne worked in the summer of 1926 as an assistant prop man on the set of a movie directed by John Ford. Ford became one of the biggest influences in Wayne's life; Wayne and Ford were best friends until Ford's death in 1973.
From props, Wayne worked his way to the big screen. He played in grade-B westerns until Ford convinced United Artists to give him the role of Ringo Kid in the film "Stagecoach." The role put Wayne on the map. He began to get steady work, including "The Long Voyage Home," "Reap the Wild Wind," and "A Lady Takes a Chance."
When war broke out, Wayne tried to enlist but was denied, due to a football injury, his age (34), and his status as a married father of four. He flew to Washington to plead for admittance into the Navy, but was turned down. Determined to do what he could for the war effort, he began making inspirational war films including "The Fighting Seabees," "Back to Bataan," and "They Were Expendable." Wayne couldn't stay away from the front lines. Fittingly, it was a wartime film, "Sand of Iwo Jima," that turned Wayne into a superstar. Wayne went to Vietnam in the early days of the war, scorning special treatment, and insisting on visiting troops in the field. Upon his return from Vietnam, he vowed to make a film about the heroism of Special Forces soldiers. The result was "The Green Berets" and the public flooded the theaters.
The turning point in Wayne's career was the film "True Grit," for which he took home an Oscar for Best Actor in 1969. Wayne had an impressive number of film credits during his career including "How the West Was Won," "Fort Apache," "Flying Leathernecks," "The Alamo," and "The Shootist."
Wayne found out he had cancer. He had two major operations to try to control it. When he was told that there was no hope, he asked that they use his body for experimental medical research to search for a cure. He refused painkillers so he could be alert as he spent his last days with his seven children. Wayne died of cancer on June 11, 1979. Wayne, when asked how he wanted to be remembered, said "Feo, Fuerte y Formal." It's a Spanish proverb which means "He was ugly, strong, and had dignity." In March 1980, Wayne's family was presented with a Congressional Medal in honor of Wayne. It read: "John Wayne, American."
Wayne was initiated into Glendale Chapter DeMolay in Glendale, California, in 1924. He received the Legion of Honor in 1970. Wayne was a member of the first class to be inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame on November 13, 1986.
"I was overwhelmed by the feeling of friendship, comradeship, and brotherhood … DeMolay will always hold a deep spot in my heart."