Will Rogers once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” The most popular man in America
was undoubtedly Will Rogers. The glib mouthed cowboy an trick rope performer was a
spokesman and supporter of the common man and his monologues made them laugh as well as
William Penn Adair Rogers was born on November 4, 1879, in Indian Territory. He inherited Cherokee bold from both his mother and his father. Rogers’ father was a successful rancher, his V-shaped spread was one of the most profitable ranches in the territory. After his mother died when he was ten, his father was left to raise Rogers and his two sisters alone. Rogers was, according to his father and his father’s standards, wild and irresponsible. Rogers learned to love
ranch life. His closest companion, Uncle Dan Walker, patiently showed Rogers how to throw a
rope. Rogers became quite an expert with a rope. He was also quite an adept wrangler and
cowboy. After the tenth grade, Rogers dropped out of school and eventually left home over
conflicts with his father before he was twenty. He enjoyed travel, using his cowboy skills and
rope twirling to earn a living as he traveled around the country. Rogers eventually signed up for a wild west show where he became enormously popular because of the complexities of his trick roping and riding.
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After an eight year courtship, Rogers asked Betty Blake to marry him. The couple spent their honeymoon traveling around the country with another wild west show. They were on the road for several years, some of which Rogers was cast in one of the most sophisticated and popular
shows in New York, Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic.
The Rogers’ later moved to California, where they bought a large, non-working ranch. Rogers then began making silent films, using his roping skills and became extremely popular in that medium as well. During this time he met a young pilot named Wiley Post. They were both form the west and both part Cherokee. They shared a love for airplanes, adventure and travel and soon became lifelong friends. Rogers’ love for travel took him to Alaska. It was this adventure that
ended his life in 1935.
Today Rogers’ name and face are still well known, although his work is largely forgotten. To many Rogers remains a symbol of many of the treasured values that the pressures of modern times seem to have stripped from American society. Rogers will never be forgotten, for his legacy is everywhere. His ranch in California is now The Will Rogers State Park, where the Will Rogers Polo Club meets every weekend to compete. The Will Rogers Airport was founded in 1927, built at first as a facility for air passenger and airmail service it has evolved into a major business complex. The Will Rogers Memorial Museum houses numerous artifacts and memorabilia. The 16,652 square-foot, eight-gallery museum was built of fossilized limestone quarried nearby, it was opened in 1938. And lastly the Will Rogers Institute is a national health organization dedicated to the support of lung research and developing new treatments and cures for pulmonary diseases and disorders. As a witty comedian and entertaining performer, Rogers had quite an impact on America.