William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935) was a stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, American cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator. His earthy anecdotes and folksy style allowed him to poke fun at gangsters, prohibition, politicians, government programs, and a host of other controversial topics in a way that was appreciated by a national audience, with no one offended.
- Known as “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son”, Rogers was born to a prominent Cherokee Nation family in Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma).
- He traveled around the world three times, made 71 movies (50 silent films and 21 “talkies”), and wrote more than 4,000 nationally syndicated newspaper columns.
- By the mid-1930s, the American people adored Rogers. He was the leading political wit of his time, and was the highest paid Hollywood movie star.
- Rogers died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post, when their small airplane crashed in northern Alaska.
Rogers’s vaudeville rope act led to success in the Ziegfeld Follies, which in turn led to the first of his many movie contracts.
- His 1920s syndicated newspaper column and his radio appearances increased his visibility and popularity.
- Rogers crusaded for aviation expansion, and provided Americans with first-hand accounts of his world travels.
His aphorisms, couched in humorous terms, were widely quoted.
- He said: “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
- Another widely quoted Will Rogers comment was: “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
- He also believed: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”
Rogers even provided an epigram on his most famous epigram: When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: “I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I dident [sic] like. I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.”