John Wayne’s heirs sue Duke University

Wayne Family Portrait1969: John Wayne at home with his family: Ethan, Marissa, Aissa and his third wife, Pilar. Photo by John Dominis | Time & Life Pictures|Getty Images

He was known as that rare breed in Hollywood, a gentleman. So it’s hard to imagine how the Duke would have reacted to a lawsuit brought by John Wayne Enterprises against the unwittingly eponymous university in Durham.

Maybe, as his son Ethan asserts, Duke’s dream was to distill fine spirits, which Ethan is trying to do with Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Problem is: Duke University isn’t happy about the “confusingly similar marks associated with unapproved goods or services, of uncertain quality and/or unregulated by [Duke University].”

Hogwash, the lawsuit claims. “Duke University does not own the word ‘Duke’ in all contexts for all purposes,” Wayne’s heirs say.

Scott Eyman, Duke’s most recent biographer, says the boy baptized Marion Robert Morrison in 1907 was “insecure, bedeviled by poverty and nightmares.”

On page 3 of the lawsuit, his heirs explain how he got called Duke:


Perhaps the nickname helped him “transform himself into a symbol of American self-confidence.”

Yup. Maybe the actor would have told the university: “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I expect the same from them.”

The lawsuit was first reported by the Hollywood Reporter.