PHOTO: John Wayne’s Inspirational Telegram to Nat King Cole After Cancer Diagnosis

by Shelby Scott

John Wayne has remained a staple American icon across the 20th and 21st centuries. Iconic for his starring roles throughout Hollywood’s Golden Age, most memorably for his Westerns and war films, we’ve discovered yet another attribute of the Duke’s that makes him an even more admirable film star and individual alike.

Over on John Wayne’s official Instagram page, historians shared an inspirational telegram sent to jazz music extraordinaire, Nat King Cole. Sent in December of 1964, the telegram addresses the music legend during his battle with cancer following his diagnosis.

The statement reads:

“Sorry to hear you’ve joined the club but it can be whipped[.] I had one snatched with the top half of my left lung three months ago and don’t let it get you down. Was just listening to the radio and heard a record of Christmas songs[.] I want to thank you for the joy you’ve brought me and my family[.] Keep punching.”

Sent via the Western Union Telegram, Nat King Cole’s death came barely more than a year following John Wayne’s message. In the end, Cole succumbed to lung cancer on February 15th, 1965. Outsiders can see the date written in red pencil along the side of the memo.

According to the post, John Wayne, known as an iconic American actor, also headlines a successful cancer foundation. Identified in the Instagram post as the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, the organization aims to provide funding for cancer research, education, awareness, and support.

John Wayne Openly Supported American Cancer Association

Outsiders know the Duke as one of film history’s most beloved cowboys. However, he also previously served as a trademark supporter for the American Cancer Foundation. In openly sharing his experience and his first diagnosis, Wayne’s family initiated the John Wayne Cancer Foundation in 1985.

As John Wayne fans might already know, the Duke’s first diagnosis came in 1969. It saw a decent size tumor obstructing the star’s left lung. At the time, there was a certain stigma surrounding cancer diagnoses. The fact was especially true for such a Hollywood staple; Wayne’s agents feared future filmmakers may not insure him.

Nevertheless, in a post from earlier this month, the actor’s son shared his father’s honesty and support regarding his own diagnosis and the way in which early detection saved his life.

In speaking to his father’s actions, the icon’s son Ethan shared the Duke made a moral decision, rather than a monetary decision. After encouragement from his wife, Wayne saw treatment for his first diagnosis and from there, he appeared in multiple commercials for the American Cancer Society.

Overall, the film star’s action has surely contributed to the development which scientists and health care representatives have seen in cancer research.