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A Real John Wayne, Congressman Sam Johnson

   He epitomized rugged masculinity and became an enduring American icon. He is famous for his distinctive voice and walk. He is also known for his conservative political views.
 by J.B. Blocker
   In another time, John Wayne would have been the perfect actor to play Sam Johnson as the Fighter Pilot POW in "Captive Warriors." the Congressman’s autobiography. But Sam's heroics came during Vietnam and the Duke was finishing his career by then.

    By many accounts, Wayne's failure to serve in the military during World War II was the most painful experience of his life. Some other stars, for various reasons, did not enlist, but Wayne, by virtue of becoming a celluloid war hero in several patriotic war films, as well as an outspoken supporter of conservative political causes and the Vietnam War became the focus of particular disdain from both himself and certain portions of the public, particularly in later years. While some hold Wayne in contempt for the paradox between his early actions and his later attitudes, his widow suggests Wayne's rampant patriotism in later decades sprang not from hypocrisy but from guilt. 
  Pilar Wayne wrote, "He would become a 'super patriot' for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying home." - Wikipedia.

J.B. Blocker meets "J.B. Books"

The Shootist was filmed in '76 and was the last movie for the Duke. I had the opportunity to visit John Wayne at his home near Del Rey. It was just after the Thanksgiving holidays in 1978. I went along as the guest of his son Patrick.
  Pat made annual visits to the Amarillo dinner theater, a favorite of his to occasionally ‘just play the stage' as many film stars do.
  I made his acquaintance on his first day in Amarillo, and I became his tour guide ‘runnin buddy’.  Pat would come to Amarillo several more time over the next few years, and he would call me as soon as he was scheduled in.
  We would hang out and check out all the nightclubs as was the custom of the last of the disco days.
  On one special occasion, his father wanted Pat to fly back to Cali to see him the next day, and Pat invited me to come along. I was in awe!
   When we walked into 'the Dukes' home, Pat immediately led us to a side room. 
  There he was! Seated in a plush leather recliner with an oxygen tank on one side and a cigar ashtray on the side table. When Pat introduced me, the Duke found it amusing that his last role was as J.B. Books in "The Shootist" and here was J.B. Blocker visiting "hat n all."
  The Duke never got up. He wasn’t wearing his toupee and was half the size I had imagined, until I shook his hand. When his big hand circled mine I felt the gentle power surge through me, and he was John Wayne again.
  He offered me a ‘damn fine’ cigar and pointed to a box with a bottle of Tequila next to it.
“Have a shot. I’d join you, but I’m having some digestion problems.”
  Pat wandered away as other family members began to arrive and he even left me for quite a while with my new greatest hero.
  We left that evening to get back for his rehearsals in Amarillo and I read lines with him most of the way. It turned out that John Wayne was having part of his stomach removed after the holidays and wanted to have a family meeting. I was Pat’s distraction from a dreaded discussion. What an opportunity to be his supportive friend.
  In January, the Duke had part of his stomach removed and by June he had passed on to immortality.

The Real Deal   
  Nearly 30 years later to the day I walked up to a gentle giant in a black Stetson and shook hands with U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson. When I felt the big hands gently and firmly wrap around my hands I was transported back to my time with the Duke.
  This was a GOP rally and the big Texan was obviously a featured attraction. I squirmed my way to the center of the action with my camera in hand while wearing the only other black Stetson in the room.
  I didn’t know much about this man at the time, and afterward I went home and did what I do. I surfed the net.
  By the time I had closed my laptop, I realized I had met the real deal.

Buzz Aldren, Sam, Lana Myers
  Congressman Sam Johnson is a true American war hero who has received nearly every high ranking military and civilian recognition. As a fighter pilot, he was one of the first to fly the F-85 and F-100 swept wing Mach 1 fighter jets. 
  A prisoner of war for seven years, he was part of the Alcatraz Gang, a group of brave resisters who had to be isolated from the other POW’s because of their leadership. Because of this, he spent more than 40 months of isolation in a 3x9 cell. 
  After an amazing career in the military the builder/businessman systematically moved up the ranks of community leadership beginning 1984 to become one of the most formidable icons of conservative government in Texas and now on the United States Congress.
   His hard stands for limited government, the Social Security of Americans, and attention to immigration make him a voice for the Conservative.

Congressman Johnson has been named The Most Conservative Congressman on Capital Hill.

  "I consider this a badge of honor because it means that I stood up and voted against Nancy Pelosi and the President at every turn. This designation reflects the will of my constituents for a smaller, smarter government that strives to leave a strong legacy for future generations to come.
  "I am constantly reminded of the famous words of President Ronald Reagan who said, 'Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.'
  "As a combat veteran, constitutional conservative and fiscal hawk, I am committed to freedom and free enterprise and will make that known through every vote.
  "Again, thank you for giving me the honor and the opportunity to serve you each day. God bless you and God bless America.

John and Sam
  I thought you would appreciate some other comparisons between John Wayne and Congressman Johnson.
  Wayne responded to questions about whether social programs such as Medicare and Social Security were good for the country:

John Wayne: "I know all about that. In the late Twenties, when I was a sophomore at USC, I was a socialist myself – but not when I left. The average college kid idealistically wishes everybody could have ice cream and cake for every meal. But as he gets older and gives more thought to his and his fellow man's responsibilities, he finds that it can't work out that way – that some people just won't carry their load. ... I believe in welfare – a welfare work program. I don't think a fella should be able to sit on his backside and receive welfare. I'd like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living. I'd like to know why they make excuses for cowards who spit in the faces of the police and then run behind the judicial sob sisters. I can't understand these people who carry placards to save the life of some criminal, yet have no thought for the innocent victim."

Wayne later made controversial pro-war comments when asked why a North-South joint election in Vietnam could not have been administered in lieu of armed conflict:

John Wayne: "That would be no more practical than if France, after coming to help us in the Revolution, suggested having an election to decide what we wanted to do. It would be an exact parallel. The majority of those living in the Colonies didn't want war at that time. If there had been a general election then, we probably wouldn't be here today. As far as Vietnam is concerned, we've made mistakes. I know of no country that's perfect. But I honestly believe that there's as much need for us to help the Vietnamese as there was to help the Jews in Germany. The only difference is that we haven't had any leadership in this war. All the liberal senators have stuck their noses in this, and it's out of their bailiwick. They've already put far too many barriers in the way of the military. Our lack of leadership has gone so far that now no one man can come in, face the issue and tell people that we ought to be in an all-out war."

If you want to fill in the gaps about the military history of Congressman Sam Johnson, do what I did. Google him! His autobiography Captive Warriors is a role John Wayne would have loved.
Hear John Wayne cite the Pledge, please click on

- J.B. Blocker is a media consultant based in Historic Downtown McKinney, Texas.

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