Will Rogers--Indian, Cowboy and Legendary Entertainer.

Will Rogers with Horseshoes

Source

Birthplace

Source

The Cherokee Cowboy

Rogers was born November 1879 as William Penn Adair Rogers, the son or a prominent Indian Territory family, in what is now Oklahoma. He reminds me much of Mark Twain as a humorist, writer, performer and social commentator, without Twain’s hard edge.

I think I’ve heard quips of Rogers all my life but I think my first introduction to Rogers was the movie The Story of WillRogers in which his son Will Rogers, Jr. played his father. I find that when I go by memory of a movie that I haven’t seen for a long time I don’t always remember right. However, I recall two things from the movie, which I saw when I was in the equivalent to junior high school. The first was that Rogers was given the honor at a political convention of a favorite son nomination. I was impressed at the time because I thought it was a bigger deal than it was, since favorite son is sort of like an honorary degree. The other thing I recall is that Will Rogers got on a train and met Gene Autry, who was a telegraph operator at the time. Autry wrote about it.

His parents were Clement Vann Rogers (1839-1911) and Mary America Schrimsher (1838-1890). Mary was quarter Cherokee Indian. According to Wikipedia Will was 9/32’s Cherokee. His mother belonged to the Paint Clan.

Youngest of eight children he was named for the Cherokee leader Col. William Penn Adair. His father Clement V. Rogers was a Cherokee leader: a judge, Confederate veteran and a delegate to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention. He also served several terms on the Cherokee senate.

Unable to live up to his father’s expectations a rife developed between the two until Will became a success in vaudeville. He was a good student and read the New York Times but left school after the tenth grade. He preferred cowboys, horses, and learned to rope and ride.

For a few years he worked the Dog Iron ranch. In 1901 he left with a friend hopping to work as gauchos in Argentina. After a few months trying to succeed as ranch owners in the Argentina pampas they lost their money and he was too embarrassed to write home for more. Rogers went alone to South Africa and got work at Piccione’s Ranch in Mooi river station.

Wild West Show

Texas Jack had a small Wild West show that did a big business in camps. “I did some roping and riding.” He said and Jack took an interest in him. Rogers learned from Jack and moved on to Australia. He got a letter of introduction to the Wirth Brothers Circus. Later he brought his act to the vaudeville stage.

Will Rogers Horse Sculturre

creativ commons attribution author TheWhite pelican
creativ commons attribution author TheWhite pelican

Vaudeville

At Madison Square Garden a runaway steer began to climb into the viewing stand. Will roped the steer, the crowd was delighted and Will made front-page news

In 1908 he married Betty Blake and they had four children His son Bill played him in the film, was a WWII hero and a member of congress.

Rogers went on to write a newspaper column, play in movies, went on “lecture tours” a la Mark twain. He also became a star on radio using the material from his newspaper columns.

A staunch Democrat, he did support Republican Calvin Coolidge. FDR was his favorite. Briefly he served as mayor of Beverly Hills.

In 1928 he did a mock presidential campaign called the “Anti-bunk Party.”

He liked liberal philosophies on most issues and extolled hard work and long hours of toil in order to succeed. He symbolized the self-made man, the common man who believed in America, in progress and the American dream of upward mobility. Seems like contradictions by today’s standards.

His Lagacy

His use of language was legendary, as he used up-to-date slang and invented new words. He also used puns and cowboy terms and southern speech patterns. He seems like the ancestor of the modern cowboy poets.

Rogers was avid about air travel and like other performers was destined to die in an air crash. August 15, 1935 Rogers and his pilot Wiley Post died in an air crash after take off from a lagoon near Point Barrow, Alaska.

Memorials abound in Oklahoma for their favorite son. Many places and buildings are named for him. California and Texas have memorials as well.

© 2010 Don A. Hoglund

More by this Author


Comments 24 comments

Kinghorn 6 years ago

Your very compact and informative writing is pleasant and the brevity doesn't result in a dogmatic tone.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Bill,

Thanks for the comment. Feedback like this is useful so that I know I am on the right track.


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

I have read about Will Rogers in the past, but I learned a few things from your article I didn't know. I enjoyed reading your article.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Coolmman2009

Thanks for commenting. I learned a few things myself in researching it.

I'm starting to put links in my hubs. Since you asked my permission to link to one of my hubs do you mind if I link to some of your hubs?


Coolmon2009 profile image

Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

Not a problem link to whatever you want to. Once again I enjoyed reading your article on Will Rogers :)


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks. I'm still in the learning proscess.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago

I never miss the chance in columns to read his wit , great read. Gets my vote.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for visiting and commenting.


Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 5 years ago

I too loved his wit because out of it came simple truth and common sense. thanks


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

T^heanks for commenting. I think he is among the great talents.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Will Rogers was "America's Son". You have captured the very heart of this man in your excellent hub. I truly enjoyed every word. Thank you. Rated up. vocalcoach


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

That is very complimentary. Thank you. I have always like Will Rogers.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago

Dahoglund , I love Wills quotes and country logic. Great piece of writing! Hey whats with the new picture here Mr.D . I like the tilt of that hat , didn't Will say some things about a mans hat !


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I discovered my laptop has a built in camera so I thought I would try it out.I am planning some ebooks and needed a picture for the publisher.I hope it is good enough.You might try your poems in an ebook,or have you already?

I don't recall a quote about hats from Will, but I am sure he must have had one.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 5 years ago

I have not , I've only thought of doing that! Good luck you definately have a knack for good writing , good luck and keep us posted. I'd love a book! By the way ,thats a great picture.


GNelson profile image

GNelson 5 years ago from Florida

I have a Will Rogers book of quotes on my desk. He is one of the best. His quotes still makes sense today.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

ahorseback

I seem to be confused by hubpages new methods, I don't know how I missed answering you and I apologize.I did do a short ebook and it is free to download This link should get you there.http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/77624


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Gnelson

Yes, Will Rogers had ironic and common sense observations about the world around us, and it doesn't seem to change that much.


Susieq42 5 years ago

I enjoyed reading about Will Rogers; he's an interesting character and wasn't afraid to try new things. In other words, he knew what he was interested in and did it. We should all do this! Thank you, very informative, nice story format.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for reading it and leaving a comment.Will Rogers legacy still offers us words of wisdom.


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

As a history major, I admire what you did with the sketch of Will rogers.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I appreciate the compliment.The way history was taught in my day was not very inspiring.As a result I did not study it much until later.When I do write on a historical subject I try to make it interesting.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 4 years ago from Stepping past clutter

I love Will Rogers- especially his humor. He always makes me laugh and makes me think!!! Great hub.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Storytellersrus, thanks for commenting. Yes, I think Will Rogers is one of america's great humorists.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working