William Penn Adair Rogers was born on November 4, 1879 in Oologah, Indian Territory, which would become Oklahoma less than 20 years later. He was born and raised on Rogers Ranch which allowed him to work with cattle and horses from a very young age. He became so skilled with a lasso, that he was added to the Guinness Book of World Records for throwing three lassos at once; one around the horse’s neck, one around all four of the horse’s legs, and the other around the rider. He dropped out of school in the 10th grade to become a professional traveling cowboy. After traveling with many different shows and circuses, Will married Betty Blake and they had four children together. He began to develop his act from just lasso tricks to humorous commentary about people, life, the country, and the government.
His humor really launched his career straight into Hollywood. Rogers had a wildly successful career and starred in several movies including They Had to See Paris (1929) and State Fair (1934). The laughter echoed across the nation and he was voted most popular male actor in Hollywood in 1934. In his career he starred in 71 films total and several Broadway shows. He career extended past Hollywood into journalism. He wrote over 4,000 columns and six books, as well as becoming a radio broadcaster. He took particular interest in politics because he viewed the government as the “national joke factory”. He even ran as a spoof presidential candidate.
During one of his many travels with good friend a pilot Wiley Post, Will’s life was tragically cut short on August 15, 1935 when their plane went down. His wife made a memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma where he now rests with his son Fred and wife Betty. However, his humor and commentary proved to be timeless and still lives on today through the musical “The Will Rogers Follies”. There are several memorials honoring this famous Oklahoman, including the Will Rogers Gardens in Oklahoma City, one of the City’s most beautiful best kept secrets. This historic land space in the northwest quadrant of the city offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy one of the most enchanting parks in Oklahoma.