Erik Wright, a journalist with a local news paper, has written a very interesting article concerning Terry Wayne Hammock, and he has given me permission to share that article here. I took the liberty of looking into Mr. Wright's qualifications and I have to say that I was very impressed!
Erik Wright is a native Texan who studied archaeology in Tucson, Arizona with an emphasis in geophysical applications in prehistoric sites in the Tucson Basin. Erik worked in this field for several years as both an archaeological crew chief on data recoveries and as an equipment and safety manager for a leading geotechnical firm in Arizona and Colorado.
At age 16, Erik sold his first article to True West Magazine and has since published nearly 50 articles and papers on the history of the American West. Erik is widely recognized in his field as an authority on borderlands violence, 19th and early 20th century law and disorder and military operations in the American southwest. His work has appeared in numerous publications and has served as Copy Editor for the Journal of the Wild West History Association and is a Contributing Writer for the National Tombstone Epitaph. Other work has appeared in national newspapers, the Greene County Historical and Genealogical Society Quarterly, Wild West Magazine and more.
He is a Staff Writer with a local Arkansas newspaper and lives in northeast Arkansas with his wife, Laura, a mental health case manager.
Here is Mr. Wright's article.
The Duke’s Illegitimate Grandson?
By Erik Wright © 2015
Paragould, Arkansas-based western fiction author Terry Wayne Hammock alias John T. Wayne (hereafter shall be known as “Hammock” for sake of clarity unless directly attributed to a quote or otherwise) has been falsely convincing local libraries libraries, museums, politicians and western history buffs in the mid-south for several years with what appears to be false claims about his family lineage. Hammock claims that he is the illegitimate grandson of American actor John Wayne.1 Hammock’s explanation states that:
I was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1958. The fact is I am John Wayne's grandson, although the John Wayne family would love to keep the facts surrounding my father's birth covered up. My father was Billy Gene Hammock. He was born in Feb [sic] of 1935. He was not given the name Wayne because he was born out of wedlock to my grandmother. The doctor who delivered my father was John C. Morrison M.D. For those of you who don't recognize this; John Wayne was born Marion Robeert [sic] Morrison. Why the doctor covered up my fathers [sic] birth was simple. The Duke was married to his first wife at the time and she was at home in California having a baby of her own. My father never knew who his earthly father was and he died not knowing. After his death in 2009 my brothers and I sat around the dinning [sic] room table and wondered, "What is the big stinking secret? Why can't we know who our grandfather is?" You see, granny was still alive at the time and she still wouldn't tell us. A pact? I don't know, but when she had her 95th birthday in Nov [sic] of 2012 I decided to do some digging. I found my answers in the newspaper from 1934. It was all there and I now have all of the pieces to the puzzle. I know I am John Wayne's grandson, and soon I will release a biography which details all of what my brothers and I now know.
I did not know any of this when I began writing my western novels way back in 1985. How could I have? It is strange how life works. Your entire life is spent not knowing who your grandfather might be, then one day you decied [sic] to put on a cowboy hat and your life changes forever. Only God could come up with a plan like this!
I may never be revered like my grandfather was, however I will tell you life can play tricks on the unsuspecting. I never dreamed where my life would go when I began writing my novels all those years ago. I am thankful I wrote my novels "The Gaslight Boys" with such passion for there are many which still remain unpublished, yet I will be releasing them in the near future just as I have released the first four, as John T. Wayne!
My name change was completed in August of 2012. I did this after learning what my grandmother had done all those years ago, after becoming certain that I was John Wayne's grandson. My name is now legally John Thomas Wayne. My great grandfather [sic] was John Thomas Clements. Had my father known who his real father was I can just about bet he would have claimed his heritage in the same mannor [sic].2
Hammock’s argument consistently hinges on the points he illustrated above. First, Hammock claims that he was not aware of his true lineage until later in his life. Second, he claims that he found a newspaper article that “proves” John Wayne was his grandfather and that this discovery was made with his brothers around a dining room table. Third, he claims that once he found proof of his lineage, he legally changed his name from Hammock to Wayne.
To date, Hammock has not been able to provide one piece of documentation supporting his claims.3
In The New Frontier John Wayne Internet Database by Bob Tuttle, Hammock set out to try to defend his claims against Tuttle’s investigations. During the online exchange, Hammock challenges Tuttle to “dig deeper” into his investigation because Tuttle, according to Hammock, was only strengthening Hammock’s argument. Still, Tuttle responded to Hammock’s claim that his father, Billy Gene Hammock was the son of John Wayne after being conceived at a party in Hickman, Kentucky and was born on February 21, 1935. Tuttle adds that the average length of human gestation is 280 days. “Counting backwards from February 21, 1935, the date of conception would be May 18, 1934,” Tuttle argues. “Of course it is possible that the actual conception date could be a couple of weeks on either side of this date, so the question here is was John Wayne in Hickman, Kentucky on May 18, 1934 or during any time within say 21 days (three weeks) on either side of that date. This gives us a target range of April 27, 1934 – June 8, 1934.”4
Tuttle continued his argument with research based on Wayne’s movements during that time. Tuttle’s research concluded that Wayne was bogged down with a heavy film schedule in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California and the General Grant National Forest near Fresno from November, 1933 to December, 1934. Looking specifically at the time in question where Wayne may have been in Kentucky, Wayne filmed Randy Rides Alone from April 21, 1934 to May 1, 1934; Star Packer from May 8, 1934 to the end of May or beginning of June, 1934; The Trail Beyond which began filming at the beginning of June, 1934 and was still filming on June 21, 1934. Tuttle’s research also revealed that in May, 1934 Wayne signed an eight-picture deal with Monogram Studios immediately after he wrapped Star Packer and after signing the deal made his way to the General Grant National Forest to resume filming.5
In the exchange with Tuttle, Hammock argued that “It only took a little over a week to film one of those movies.” However, Tuttle responded with research that proved many of the film schedules overlapped and “He [Hammock] doesn’t take into account that not only did it clearly take longer than just a little over a week to film one [movie], they were often filmed back to back and with overlapping filming schedules. This allowed for more films to be made in the same space of time.”6
Hammock further argues that Wayne could have traveled the 2,000 miles from Lone Pine, California to Hickman, Kentucky to attend the party and travel back to his filming commitments in the span of one day. While this likely cannot be proven either way, it is highly improbable for today or 1934.7
Part of Hammock’s argument also rests on his belief that the Dr. John C. Morrison, the man who delivered his father, was directly related to Wayne by utilizing the Morrison family connection and claiming Morrison was the reason Wayne travel to Kentucky in the first place. However, Tuttle refutes this by stating emphatically that Morrison was in no way related to Wayne through his genealogical research.8
Wayne continued his argument on Tuttle’s blog by stating he had “dug deeper” and acquired DNA evidence in November, 2012 to support his claim and that both Wayne’s daughter Aissa Wayne and Wayne’s longtime friend and frequent co-star Maureen O’Hara had personally spoken to Wayne and had expressed their desire for Wayne to be included in the family.9
After reaching out to Aissa Wayne for a statement on Wayne, I received the following response via e-mail on June 18, 2015 which was also copied to Brian Downes of the John Wayne Birthplace Museum. “I can tell you he [Hammock] is not a family member. (He may be suffering The Bruce Jenner syndrome.)”10
While I was unsuccessful in reaching Maureen O’Hara, through Tuttle, I was told that through his personal correspondence that an O’Hara representative refutes Hammock’s claims.11
Still, as the John Wayne’s family denies his lineal claims so does Hammock’s own. Ann Hayden, Hammock’s aunt who currently resides in Tennessee said he had “Lost his mind.” In a telephone interview with Hayden and her brother, Robert Dale Hammock on July 2, 2015, the two explained that lies and deceit are the Modus operandi for Hammock. “Years and years ago before this whole John Wayne thing started he was apparently related to Mark Twain,” Hayden said. “But I can tell you 100 percent that he is not related to Mark Twain, John Wayne or anyone else.”
Robert Hammock was slightly more colorful in his explanation. “I am tired of him dragging my momma’s name through the mud. If you [Terry Hammock] don’t want to be a part of this family, then get the hell out.”
Both Hayden and Hammock echoed that Terry Hammock had attempted to sell his story to them and the rest of the family, but most were skeptical. “The way I understand it is way back when he was starting out in writing someone stopped him in the airport and told him he looked like John Wayne,” Robert Hammock said. “From that point on I think he had just sold himself.” Hayden added that the story about Hammock sitting around the dining room table with his brothers and finding out the secret information about his family is such was also a lie. “That never happened.
His brothers, John and William, are embarrassed by him and I can assure you his mother did not have any affair with John Wayne.”12
Also on July 2, the author received a statement from Amy Shepherd of Wayne Enterprises in Newport Beach, California. “Please note that there is no relation between Terry Hammock and the John Wayne Family.”13
While it seems that Hammock’s claims to be directly descended from John Wayne are entirely bogus, Hammock has also promoted himself as a legitimate historian. To date, Hammock has only published fiction books, however, in February, 2015 in anticipation of a Civil War lecture event at the Swift College Museum in Rogersville, Tennessee, Hammock was billed as, “Author, historian John T. Wayne” who “As the grandson of the legendary actor of the same name, John T. Wayne has carved a niche for himself as an author and Civil War Historian… A former U.S. Marine and a grandson of actor, John Wayne, Wayne’s foray into writing began with a series of books that sheds light on a subject that is buried in the annals of American History – children who became orphans as a result of the Civil War.”14
The event was later cancelled.
In June, 2015 the Shannon County Museum in Eminence, Missouri promoted Wayne as “[The] author of numerous books on the Civil War and Old West. The books focus on the orphans created by the Civil War, without which we could not have cowboys today. The Gaslight Boys series pays homage to the orphans who grew up on the streets under the gaslights in downtown St. Louis during and after the war. These children grew up to become the cowboys, children such as Judge Isaac Parker, Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill and Nat Love.”15
Even Hammock gets in to the fracas by erroneously stating on his now expired website that, “In the 150 years since the endo of the war, no one has written about the orphans which were created, those same orphans became the Cowboys. Prior to the war the term Cowboy did not exist in America. It was used in Ireland in 1070 A.D. for one summer.”16
Until Hammock comes forward and produces the evidence he claims to have, it can be assumed that he is in no way a living relative, legitimate or otherwise, of John Wayne. Hammock is not the first person to try to bank on a celebrity’s name nor will he be the last, but as Hammock continues to convince those around him that he is the grandson of John Wayne, his claims will persist. As we sort through the statements made by the Hammock and Wayne families, it appears that Hammock may truly believe his claims despite ironically stating, “I love the south, a man can still get away with telling the truth in the south.”17
Footnotes / Sources:
1. Wayne explains this in two YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gj8xWHRh2hY and: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI832gPicEg as well as a brief explanation on his Amazon author page.
2. John T. Wayne Amazon author page, http://www.amazon.com/Ole-Slantface-Gaslight-Boys-Series/dp/1479760684/ref=pd_sim_14_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1BSRKE21AW91VBQBWNH2. Accessed July 5, 2015.
3. Personal Correspondence with John Wayne researcher Bob Tuttle: June-July, 2015.
4. Terry Hammock Stands By His Claim. http://dukefanclub.weebly.com/blog.terry-hammock-stands-by-his-claim. Published December 23, 2014.
8. Ibid. (In an undated obituary ((printed sometime after 1958)), John C. Morrison is remembered as “[The] beloved Hickman physician” who died at Baptist Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. following a major surgery. No mention of a relation to Wayne or the Morrison family was mentioned. Author’s Collection.)
9. Ibid. No proof of these conversations exist, however, Wayne was photographed with Aissa Wayne and O’Hara in 2013 at the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset, Iowa and Wayne may base his arguments for communications with the two women from these pictures.
10. Personal correspondence with Aissa Wayne. June 18, 2015.
11. Personal correspondence with Bob Tuttle. June 17, 2015.
12. Telephone communication with Ann Hayden and Robert Dale Hammock. July 2, 2015. In a separate e-mail communication with Hayden dated June 22, 2015 she states: “He made all this up to sale [sic] his books, he has yet to provide any proof and he waited until my mother was not able to answer his so-called questions. I will say, however, before she died she still stood by [the fact] that his [Terry’s grandfather] was Victor Hammock.”
13. Personal communication with Amy Shepherd, Chief Operating Officer of John Wayne Enterprises. July 2, 2015.
14. Author, historian John T. Wayne to speak in Rogersville by Jeff Bobo. Times News, February 19, 2015.
15. Shannon County Museum Facebook page. Accessed July 5, 2015.
16. www.johntwayne.com/my-books. Accessed June 23, 2015. No clear definition exists as to what constitutes a “historian.” For full disclosure, I do not possess a history degree, but have taken great strides to publish widely on the American west with nearly 50 peer-reviewed papers and popular articles in national publications. While Hammock’s website cannot fully load due to the subscription expiring, it is apparent that Hammock is not a qualified historian.