John Wayne: President Ronald Reagan Explained the Duke’s ‘Strong’ Sense of Character

by Clayton Edwards

Today, we know a handful of things about John Wayne. First and foremost, we know that he is a Hollywood icon. His career is full of performances that more than earn him that title. Furthermore, we know that the Duke was the kind of guy who stuck to his guns. Most people know about the strength of his character as well as his patriotism.

Back in 1988, Ronald Reagan sat down to talk about the Duke. They got to know one another well over the years. So, he was a great person to tap for information. The interview ended up being part of the CBS documentary John Wayne: An American Hero. At the end of that interview, Reagan told a story that truly highlighted the strength of Wayne’s character. It also showed that he had a big heart.

Ronald Reagan on John Wayne’s Character

To wrap things up, the interviewer said, “Are there any comments you’d like to give to close out? We’re doing this documentary for public television on John Wayne, called An American Hero, I might add. Are there any last, closing comments you’d like to make about the man?”

Ronald Reagan said, “There’s one thing that I think shows the character of that man as well as anything.” Then, he began to tell the story of the first Screen Actors Guild strike. At that time, he was president of SAG. So, Regan was catching most of the blame from the media as well as others in Hollywood.

Later in life, Reagan and John Wayne became close. However, at that time they only knew of one another. The former President explained that “When you were at different studios, you knew about each other, but you didn’t run into them as often as you might. So, I didn’t know him well at all.”

Not knowing Reagan didn’t stop John Wayne from supporting him. “In the mornings, for seven months, I was out of that house at meetings trying to get this thing settled. And, Nancy would be there with the morning papers. Sometimes, they were worse than others.” Then, Reagan went on to explain how the Duke reached out to Mrs. Reagan.

“One day, Nancy told me that she’d had a phone call that morning after I left and it was John Wayne.” The Duke was reading the papers as well. So, according to Reagan, he just called to say, “I thought you might want to hear a friendly voice about this time.” He then went on to tell her how supportive he was of Ronald Reagan and what he was doing as head of SAG.

That wasn’t just a one-time thing, either. Ronald Reagan said that John Wayne called his house every morning just to cheer Nancy up. Looking back on that time, Reagan added, “That was typical of [John Wayne].”