Legendary civil rights activist and Georgia congressman John Lewis succumbed to cancer at the age of 80 on Friday, July 17th. Much has been and will be written about the great man and as such, a blog dedicated to the musings of Lee Marvin may seem an odd choice to add to that cornucopia. However, I do have a personal reason to include my thoughts on the Lewis legacy.
As a disclaimer, I’d like to point out that Lee Marvin himself was certainly not known as a civil rights activist. He did believe in it, though, as my research into Lee Marvin Point Blank would discover. In fact, one of his closest friends was African-American athlete and actor, Woody Strode who considered Marvin to be like a brother. Marvin may not have gone to any demonstrations or marched with Dr. King like Burt Lancaster did. Marvin did, however, make sure Woody Strode got proper billing in The Professionals which counts for something.
Woody Strode and Lee Marvin relax between scenes on the set of THE PROFESSIONALS.
Now, what does any of this have to do with the passing of John Lewis? I’ll put it this way: I was personally very glad that despite his common use of racial epithets, Marvin believed in civil rights and equality. However, the life and work of John Lewis is in a category all by itself in that regard, and since this is my blog, I choose to honor the Lewis’s legacy.
I remember when Obama was president and massive protests by the Tea Party against the passage of Obamacare. As Lewis was walking the capitol steps to cast his vote, a protester spat on him! I was beyond angry seeing that live on the news. The individual who did that had no idea what Lewis had gone through in his life but I had an inkling.
A few years back my sister gave me a book entitled The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century, subtitled A Social Justice Hall of Fame. The work was compiled by Peter Dreier and it is impressive. Below is the chapter on Lewis and I highly encourage its reading. It tells the importance of Lewis’s contribution to America better than I ever could. The anecdote used as a framing device to begin and conclude the chapter speaks volumes. Wonder if the woman who spat on him ever read it. Kind of doubt it.
Rest in Peace Congressman Lewis. Your legacy is secure.
– Dwayne Epstein
Opening of John Lewis chapter.
Mid-section pages on John Lewis.
Conclusion of John Lewis chapter.
A scene from John Ford’s DONAVAN’S REEF with Lee Marvin and John Wayne…re-imagined.
John Wayne Airport, located in Orange County, California, may be returning to it’s original name of Orange County International Airport. Why the name change? It appears to be the victim of political correctness run amok in the wake of protests condemning systematic racism. An interview John Wayne did in Playboy Magazine back in 1971 brought to re-examination his controversial philosophy when he stated, “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”
Of course, the likes of John Wayne’s son, Ethan Wayne, denies his father’s bigotry in a recent statement. All of this has come to light due to the growing protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd and others at the hands of law enforcement. My question is this: Sure, some times political correctness goes too far, but why in the world was an airport named after a movie star in the first place? Let’s be honest, that’s what he’s famous for. He didn’t serve his country in the military, cured a disease (although a medical center is also named after him since he was a victim of one), or ever held public office. With all due respect, he was simply a beloved film star. How does that rate an airport? I don’t figure it.
The other thing is this: political correctness is not the only culprit. Unknown cultural history is also to blame. Even though the interview dates back to 1971, it had only recently been rediscovered. Kind of like the way folks were surprised by Clint Eastwood’s outrageous performance at the GOP convention talking demeaningly to an empty chair as if it were President Obama. Some folks were shocked, not only by the stupidity of the attempt, but discovering how right-wing Eastwood’s personal politics are. Did they not get the point of Dirty Harry?
I find it extremely ironic. The info has always been out there, and in the digital age, one thinks it would be even more prevalent, but such is not the case. Because of this revelation (that has always existed) John Wayne Airport may become a memory.
What does any of this have to do with Lee Marvin? Well, as readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know, Marvin’s personal politics were diametrically opposed to that of John Wayne, but it didn’t keep them from working together…THREE TIMES! In fact, I encountered some static from Marvin fans when the book came out. Some said they were deeply disappointed by the man’s personal beliefs, as also stated in a Playboy interview. Bottom line, let the work of the individual speak for itself and the hell with political correctness. If it matters to you all, find out for yourself and do the homework. Don’t let others think for you. John Wayne fans take heart, though. There’s still Duke University.
– Dwayne Epstein