Happy sweet 116 to local legend


Today, we celebrate the 116th anniversary of John Wayne’s birth. The Hollywood star, whose real name was Marion Morrison, was a Maricopa area business owner whose name – and nickname – is still seen all over the city. If you haven’t played golf at “The Duke” at Rancho El Dorado, you’ve driven on John Wayne Parkway. 

Maricopa used to be a small town in the Wild West, and its history goes back nearly 150 years. The town was divided by a railroad, and it was home to farmers, cowboys and a Native American tribe. 

Here are just a few facts about The Duke: 

  • John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa. 
  • He grew up in Southern California and became a movie extra and then an actor after losing his scholarship to USC in the 1920s. 
  • Wayne bought 4,000 acres of farmland between Maricopa and Stanfield for $4 million in the late 1950s. 
  • He partnered with local cotton farmer Louis Johnson, who managed Wayne’s farm. The two later merged their properties and started 26 Bar Ranch. Both now have roadways named for them in Maricopa. 
  • Wayne and Johnson moved into the cattle business in the 1960s, running a feedlot near Maricopa and ranch near Springerville. 
  • One of Wayne’s favorite watering holes was Table Top Tavern in Stanfield. 
  • Johnson’s wife, Alice, put Wayne on a weight-loss program for his movie roles. 
  • At the peak of the Wayne and Johnson cattle partnership, they had 85,000 head. 

Read more about John Wayne: