The story involves equal parts friendship, politics, and irony. In the late 1970s, Supervisor Thomas F. Riley was a fellow Newport Beach resident, and considered the actor a political ally and friend. Riley talked to Wayne about renaming Orange County Airport for him, and The Duke, who kept his aircraft there, liked the idea. In June 1979, shortly after Wayne’s death, Riley wrote a resolution to implement the change, which called Wayne “a true American patriot” and the embodiment of “traditional American values.” Despite protests, Riley slipped it into the Board of Supervisors’ consent agenda, and it was passed, 4-0, without the public getting an official chance to comment. And yes, only 13 years before, Wayne and Riley—who now has a terminal named for him—each signed petitions against airport or jet service expansion.
Chris Jepsen is the O.C. Answer Man. Have a question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.