John Wayne and other bookworms

By: Lora Finnegan Special to The News Messenger
-A +A
It’s July 4, 1976 in Cody, Wyo. I’m a cub reporter on my first press trip when I suddenly bump into the trip’s guest of honor, John Wayne. As I shake hands with “the Duke,” I crane my neck to take in the sight. At 6’4,” with shoulders of a fullback, John Wayne at 69 is a still-commanding presence. Wayne spends three days—off and on—with our press group during this bicentennial celebration and my admiration for the actor grows with each encounter; he seems sincere, humble, patriotic. I recalled that meeting recently while I read “My Life with the Duke,” written in the 1980s by his third wife, Pilar Wayne. And I discover a new side to the he-man actor/bookworm. Pilar Wayne wrote, “Duke’s fans sometimes like to think of him as a simple, uneducated man, much like the characters he plays. In fact, he was very well read. He began going to the local library when he was 12 because it provided him with a form of free entertainment, and he remained a voracious reader all his life.” Later on, I discover Wayne had that in common with Warren Buffet. In a recent Time Magazine cover story on the billionaire investor, I read that Buffett had “read every book in the Omaha public library by the age of 11 …” Yep, Warren Buffet, another bookworm. Now it has me wondering what other famous, successful Americans might also have been early devotees of the library and how their lives were improved by their love of books and reading. An online search (which I could easily have done at the library, using computers there with free Internet access) digs up a list of more contemporary celebrity bookworms. The list may surprise you. Among the avowed library and book lovers: Natalie Portman (movie star and Harvard student); Matt Damon (movie star, Oscar-winning screenwriter); Adonal Foyle (NBA center, who brings stacks of books on road trips and has launched his own book club); and Oprah Winfrey (who has said, “Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer ...”). So whether you or your children aim to become one of the richest people in the world like Buffett or a famous movie star like Matt Damon or John Wayne, chances are you’re gonna need a library, pilgrim (I can almost hear The Duke saying it just that way). Mark your calendar 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 10: Friends of the Library Meeting in the Fir Room of the Lincoln Public Library at Twelve Bridges. 2 p.m. Saturday, April 14: Reading with Red in the Library at Twelve Bridges. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 14: Friends of the Library book sale in the Library at Twelve Bridges. Noon to 2 p.m. Thursday, April 19: In celebration of library volunteers, Friends and library volunteers are invited to a potluck lunch hosted by the library staff and the Friends; in the Library at Twelve Bridges. 5:30 p.m., third Friday of the month: Movie night at the library features free, family-oriented films during May, June, July and August. Lora Finnegan is a Friends of the Lincoln Library member. Contact the Friends at 434-2404, at friendsofthelincoln or e-mail This column may or may not necessarily express the opinions of The Lincoln News Messenger.