William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers (November 4, 1879 August 15, 1935) was an American cowboy, entertainer, and social commentator. Rogers was probably the first quintessentially American "superstar", becoming famous in every form popular media at the time: vaudeville, movies, radio, and newspapers.
Born to a well-to-do half-Cherokee family near Oologah in what is now Oklahoma,note Rogers dropped out of school as a teenager to pursue an adventurous and exciting life as a cowboy. He soon became famous for his rope tricks and appeared in circuses, vaudeville shows, and revues such as the famous Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway.
Over time, he added political and social commentary to the routines appealing to the simple All American every man. He eventually found his way into the movies (starring in 71 during his lifetime and was the highest paid star in Hollywood at the time of his death!) and on radio. He also had a syndicated column which appeared in many newspapers and magazines.
In August 15, 1935, while in Alaska with pilot and fellow Oklahoman Wiley Post, their plane crashed into a lagoon shortly after takeoff.
Rogers has since been honored and remembered as an American hero. In fact, Route 66 is sometimes called "The Will Rogers Memorial Highway". Among his other namesakes include The Will Rogers Institute, a charity endorsed by many celebrities; the Will Rogers Turnpike section of Interstate 44, running from Tulsa and passing Claremore, Oklahoma (the home of his final resting place at the Will Rogers Memorial) en route to Missouri; and Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His life story was also the inspiration for the Tony Award-winning musical The Will Rogers Follies penned by Comden and Green, and The Story of Will Rogers, a biographical 1952 film where his son Will Rogers Jr. portrayed his father.
- Biopic: The Story of Will Rogers starring his own son, Will Jr. in the title role.
- Book Dumb: Part of his honest, folksy, down-to-earth appeal to audiences and being able to identify with the common folk. Downplayed; he dropped out in the 10th grade, but was actually quite intelligent and enjoyed reading; he just didn't like going to school.
- Deadpan Snarker
- Down on the Farm: Also part of his appeal. He was also born and grew up on one.
- Insult to Rocks: Will once remarked on one occasion: "A senator got up today in Congress and called his fellow senators sons of wild jackasses. Now, if you think the senators were hot, imagine how the jackasses must feel."
- Nice Guy: "I bet you if I had met himnote and had a chat with him, I would have found him a very interesting and human fellow, for I never yet met a man that I dident (sic) like. When you meet people, no matter what opinion you might have formed about them beforehand, why, after you meet them and see their angle and their personality, why, you can see a lot of good in all of them."
- Self-Deprecation: "I am not a member of any organized party, I am a Democrat", and "I keep saying I'm a Democrat, but I ain't. I jst pretend to be 'cause Democrats are funny and I'm supposed to be."note