William Penn Adair Rodgers Will Rogers shaped provided many people with laughter throughout the early 1900’s abroad and here in the United States through his many careers he chose. Will Rogers was born on November 4, 1879 in a home his father had built near the Verdigris River bottom lands in the Cooweescoowee District of Indian Territory. His parents were Mary and Clem Rodgers. They named there first son William Penn Adair Rodgers after a distinguished Cherokee, William Penn Adair, who served as his peoples delegate in Washington. Wills father had also served with him during the Civil War. When it was time for Will to go to school he was sent to stay with his sister Sallie. Their home was across the river from the Rogers ranch and near Drumgoul, which was soon to be young Wills first school.
It was a little one-room log cabin, all Indian school, jsut four miles east of Chelsea. It was often difficult for Clem to be patient with Will. For he was a stubborn little boy. The activities Will enjoyed the most during his childhood were the rides with his father and the days where he spent every idle moment attempting to improve his roping skills. He had quite a few lariats taken away at school.
Will did poorly in school most of the time, mainly because of his lack of interest. All he cared about was roping so that was all he cared to do. His father was constantly sending him to one school or another because he was constantly unsatisfied with Wills progress. One time Will even attended a girls school, because the president also had a boy Wills age. When Wills mother, Mary Rodgers, died of typhoid fever when he was ten it left a lonely, lost feeling That persisted long after he was successful and famous.
When Will returned abruptly from one of his schools, Scarritt College, this gave his father an occasion for serious thought. He hoped that the strict discipline of Kemper Military Academy would do what his other schools had failed. At first military disipline was a novelty however grew tired of sitting at his desk. So Will asked each of his three sisters for ten dollars and he left school to become a cowboy. He would never again return to school. Wills first encounter with show business would come along as he was trying to get home from Argentina, were he had run out of money and had no way home. He meet the owner of Texas Jacks Wild West Circus and he was offered a roping job.
This would launch him into a career that would last him a life-time. His vaudeville debut was a rope-throwing act in New York City in 1905 in which he later achieved wide popularity for the humorous monologues that he accompanied with his rope tricks. After 1914 Will appeared in several of the annual Ziegfeld Follies in New York City. He also acted in many motion pictures and even wrote a series of syndicated newspaper articles. In these he poked fun at the great figures of his time and offered his own philosophies.
His film career began in 1918 and was composed of more than 60 short and feature films. After the invention of sound in films, Rogers found a large audience in such pictures as A Connecticut Yankee (1931), Down to Earth (1932), State Fair (1933), David Harum (1934), Life Begins at Forty (1935), ect. Throughout his career many important and well known people would see him perform. Such as artist Edward Borein, humorist Hughes, Lindbergh, President Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge to just name a few. Whether it was at a wild west show, at New York or Washington D.C., or all around the world.
He even became close friends with many of them. He also later wrote articles for the Saturday Day Evening Post. Wills father had also by now changed his ideas on wild west shows. At first he thought they we foolish career for Will to get into. However now he was extremely proud of his son an his accomplishments.
As Will grew older it still seemed he would never settle down. This was the main reason for Betty Blake, the girl he was in love with, turned him down the first time he asked. However they continued to talk and some time later he made an unexpected stop at Bettys home and announced that she was coming to New York with him. She said yes this time and not long after, on November 25, 1908 they were married. Will had four children, Bill, Jimmy, Mary, and Jock.
Wills public career was never brought into his home though. It was just a job that he worked at and nothing more. Will Rodgers life shaped our nations history because he was one of the first successful, Cherokee, Oklahoma born people in show business. His legacy opened up doors for many, many more people. Even today Will Rodgers is thought of very highly.
He was a kind, honest, and loving family man. He is someone we can be proud of as Americans and as Oklahomans. Wills last years carried on just as the others had. He was always busy doing something. Will didnt like to be still for long. Will thought it best to always be doing something or to be resting.
He enjoyed both very much. Will Rodgers died in a plane crash on August 1935 near point barrow Alaska. The last time Will spoke to Betty was on August the eighth around noon. It was just before he took of for Juneau. She would never speak to him or see him again.
Just a few days later he died.