To this day, John Wayne is the face of vintage America. His charming, masculine demeanor holds a special place in the hearts of those who are nostalgic for the “good ole days.” And critics consider his renowned films to be some of the most classic movies in Hollywood.
On May 26th, 1979, Wayne was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by former president Jimmy Carter. “Congress sent President Carter legislation today to have a special gold medal struck in honor of John Wayne, the actor,” reads an archived article in the New York Times.
The House of Representatives unanimously voted in approval of the award. And Elizabeth Taylor was there to give a statement at the hearing. Today, the John Wayne Instagram page posted a throwback picture of the two silver-screen icons along with an excerpt of Taylor’s statement.
“He is emblematically American, and he has made that image good,” Taylor wrote. “He is a hero, and there are so few left.”
She continued, “He has given much to America and he has given to the whole world what an American is supposed to be like – fighting the wild West or settling the wild West, being tough as an old nut or soft as a yellow ribbon.”
Though John Wayne and Elizabeth Taylor never filmed a movie together, they still built a lasting friendship over the years. In a series of photos, we also see a personal telegram that Taylor wrote to The Duke.
“Dear Big John,” she starts. ” I was so proud to testify on your behalf for the gold medal. It was a very easy thing to do because you sure deserve it.”
Taylor’s message was sent on May 25th, 1979. John Wayne died less than a month later at UCLA Medical Center. The Oscar-winning actor had been battling stomach cancer, and despite taking part in a vaccine study, he passed on June 11th, 1979.
Ethan Wayne Rememers Father John Wayne on Instagram
John Wayne was also honored by his son earlier this month. In an Instagram post, Ethan Wayne remembered his iconic father teaching him how to drive.
The John Wayne estate posted a rare photo of The Duke enjoying fatherhood. In the picture, a five-year-old Ethan is helping his father navigate the streets of California while sitting on his lap.
“When I was about five he would drive to Los Angeles, put me on his lap, and make me steer,” says John’s youngest son, Ethan. “If I would start driving out of the lane he would yell, ‘Hey — get back in the lane!’ and scare the crap out of me,” he remembered fondly.
The next photo in the series is the same custom station wagon that Ethan learned to drive in. John Wayne fans can see the car in person at John Wayne: An American Experience.