Duane Wilhite (1950 – 2015)


duanewandheroDuane Wilhite was known and loved for his clown character, Morgan. One would usually find Duane sporting an Uncle Sam costume and riding his scooter alongside his faithful Belgian Malinois dog, Hero. Both were fixtures at many a clown convention these past few years. Many of the participants at the Clown Corn-vention and the World Clown Association (WCA) looked forward to seeing this loyal duo.

Sadly, Duane passed away a few days before Christmas of 2015. He was driving en route to a granddaughter’s wedding with Hero when he succumbed to a heart attack. (Duane managed to pull his truck over safely to the side of the road. Fortunately, Hero or anyone else wasn’t injured.)

Duane Wilhite was born in Des Moines, Iowa on August 10, 1950. He had three brothers and a sister. Throughout his life, Duane resided in six different states, Japan and the Philippines. Duane had lived in Texas since 1991, and remained there until his passing. He served his country for 24 years in the United States Air Force, and retired in 1999 as a SMSgt First Sergeant.

Duane and Hero were an aura in the clowning world. Duane was a member of the World Clown Association (WCA) and he served as the South Central Director for the Texas Clown Association. His fellow performers and friends gravitated towards them at every clown convention. Duane and Hero never said no to a photo op or missed a chance to chat. One could not miss Duane’s Uncle Sam costume and easygoing nature either. (The Uncle Sam costume was based from an outfit worn by Dan Rice, a 19th-century clown and a 1991 International Clown Hall of Fame inductee.)

Duane enjoyed his family, friends, fellow clowns and his dog Hero. He also liked cars, motorcycles, dogs and funny posters. One of his Facebook pages showed a photo of Albert Einstein that said: Don’t give up on your dreams—keep sleeping! Another read: The Universe is made of Protons, Neutrons, Electrons and Morons.

Duane’s survivors include his son Duane Wilhite II, his daughter Barbie Reynolds, two stepchildren, his sister, three brothers, 13 grandchildren and his dog Hero. His parents and wife Dena (who passed in 2012) predeceased him. Presently, Hero is being cared for by Duane’s niece Lorie McCauley. Thank you to Duane for your military service and all of your years clowning. You will be missed.

Author’s Note: Thank you and kudos go out to Dennis Wilhite, Duane’s brother, for checking for the accuracy of the content of this article. Some of the information I obtained on Duane and his life were found on his Facebook page. Kudos also go out to his friend and former classmate Lahondra Kandi Estrella for the use of this enclosed photo and his niece Lorie McCauley for looking out for Hero’s well-being. It’s true that people and their dogs do go hand in paw ;O)

By Eric “Colosso” Plaut