Today, we commemorate the birthday of our namesake, Will Rogers.
William Penn Adair Rogers was born on election day, November 4, 1879 in a log-walled, seven-room house, known as “the White House on the Verdigris River,” in Indian Territory.
Will was proud, button-poppin’ proud, of his Indian heritage. His father, Clement Vann Rogers, was a Cherokee senator and judge who helped to write the Oklahoma Constitution. Mary America Schrimsher Rogers, Will’s mother, descended from a Cherokee chief, easily mastered modern society, music, literature, etiquette and good humor.
Wild West shows paved the way for Will Rogers trick roping to the vaudeville stage where he added talks, jokes, and gentle humor that soon made him famous. While his career started in vaudeville, Rogers went on to become one of the nation’s most popular film stars in the early days of Hollywood. From 1918 until his death in 1935, Rogers made 70 films and worked with industry giants such as, Sam Goldwyn and Hal Roach. Along with Shirley Temple, Will Rogers helped save Fox Film Corporation Studio.
His witty and profound observations in his regular newspaper columns made Will Rogers a leading journalist of the early twentieth century. Writing more than 2 million words, equal to 20 novels, Will’s syndicated weekly and daily columns were prized by 600 newspapers and reached a potential audience of 40 million readers. His written words spread wisdom and reflections that remain timely into the twenty-first century.
At the height of his career, Rogers was the #1 radio personality, the #1 box office draw, the nation’s #1 most sought-after public speaker, and the #1 most read newspaper columnist.
His lessons of life, visions of humanity and kind spirit were formed into wit, jokes and observations that bespoke great human dimensions. Humor and folksy observations by Will Rogers were prized by audiences around the world. He proved visionary, well informed and simply a smart philosopher. He told truth in simple words so that everyone could understand.
“You must judge a man’s greatness by how much he will be missed.”