Marion Michael Morrison, was named for his grandfather Marion Mitchell Morrison, a Civil War veteran. They were of Irish and Scots-Irish descent. He didn’t care for the name Marion. As a youth in California he had a huge Airedale terrier dog named “Duke” and the pair were inseparable. On the way to school each day they passed the fire station and one firefighter dubbed the two, “Big Duke and Little Duke.” Marion would soon outgrow the “little” but Duke stuck.
In his early work in Hollywood he was billed as “Duke Morrison” but director, Raoul Walsh, the man who “discovered” him suggested calling him Anthony Wayne, for “Mad Anthony” Wayne, the famous 18th century American general, but it was rejected by the Fox studio head because Anthony sounded Italian. So, Walsh suggested “John Wayne” and as they say, the rest is history. Duke wasn’t even there when his name was given but his salary was raised to the princely sum of $105 a week.