Pilar Pallete is best known for being the wife of the late John Wayne at the time of his death in 1979. The Western movie star was 72 at the time of his passing in Los Angeles. His name has found the headlines once again, though, as California officials are pushing to change the name of John Wayne Airport in Orange County following a resurfaced Playboy interview in which he expressed racist remarks.
With Wayne back in the news, Pallette’s name is gaining a lot of traction. Pallette is currently 91 years old and was married to Wayne from 1954 until his death in 1979. While together, she gave birth to their son, Ethan Wayne who is 58, and two daughters, Aissa and Marisa. Pallette was born in Paita, Peru, with her father serving as a senator in her home country. She actually met Wayne while he was in Peru in preparation for his movie, The Alamo, which she would have an uncredited role in. They met up later that year when she was in Los Angeles and after one year, tied the knot with a Nov. 1 wedding in Hawaii on the same day Wayne’s divorce from his second wife, Esperanza Baur, became official.
Prior to being with the True Grit star, Pallette was married to Richard Weldy from 1948 until 1953. Five years following Wayne’s death, she married Stephen Stewart before divorcing in 1997. Her final marriage came to Jesse. L. Upchurch in 1998. The two would split in 2010. Her marriage to Wayne, which lasted 25 years, was the longest of her relationships and the only one in which she had children.
As for her acting career, her first known work was the uncredited scene in The Alamo in 1960. She would appear in later works like Hollywood Greats for an episode about her husband, a 1989 TV documentary called John Wayne Standing Tall in which she appeared as herself. The rest of her credits all are various documentaries about Wayne and his life, including a 2011 documentary called The Personal Property of John Wayne.
Palette appeared at the 100th birthday celebration of Wayne that was held in Newport Beach in 2007. While there, along with her children, she told the crowd in attendance that, “I want to tell you that John Wayne was a great man… I miss him so much.”
California Democrats are pushing to strip the airport of his namesake as well as his likeness after racist comments he made during a 1971 interview in Playboy resurfaced in recent weeks. In it, he said that he believed in white supremacy, “We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks,” he's quoted as saying. Another of his controversial remarks saw him say that he doesn’t feel guilty about “the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves.”