1879 - 1935
Will Rogers was first an Indian, a cowboy then a national figure.
Born in 1879, the son of a Confederate soldier, on a large ranch in the Cherokee Nation near what later would become Oologah, Oklahoma, Will Rogers was taught by a freed slave how to use a lasso as a tool to work Texas Longhorn cattle on the family ranch.
As he grew older, Will Rogers' roping skills developed so special that he was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for throwing three lassos at once: One rope caught the running horse's neck, the other would hoop around the rider and the third swooped up under the horse to loop all four legs.
Will Rogers' unsurpassed lariat feats were recorded in the classic movie, "The Ropin' Fool."
His hard-earned skills won him jobs trick roping in wild west shows and on the vaudeville stages where, soon, he started telling small jokes.
Quickly, his wise cracks and folksy observations became more prized by audiences than his expert roping. He became recognized as being a very informed and smart philosopher--telling the truth in very simple words so that everyone could understand.
After the 10th grade, Will Rogers dropped out of school to become a cowboy in a cattle drive. He always regretted that he didn't finish school, but he made sure that he never stopped learning--reading, thinking and talking to smart people. His hard work paid off.
Will Rogers was the star of Broadway and 71 movies of the 1920s and 1930s; a popular broadcaster; besides writing more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns and befriending Presidents, Senators and Kings.
During his lifetime, he traveled around the globe three times-- meeting people, covering wars, talking about peace and learning everything possible.
He wrote six books. In fact he published more than two million words. He was the first big time radio commentator, was a guest at the White House and his opinions were sought by the leaders of the world.
Inside himself, Will Rogers remained a simple Oklahoma cowboy. "I never met a man I didn't like," was his credo of genuine love and respect for humanity and all people everywhere. He gave his own money to disaster victims and raised thousands for the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
At home, either on his ranch in Oklahoma or California, he always enjoyed riding horseback, roping steers or playing polo. He would scratch his head, grin and quip that he figured there was something wrong with anybody that didn't like a horse.
He always thought of himself as first a caring member of the human race, then a Cherokee Indian; a faithful husband and a father. Even though he was the top-paid star in Hollywood, he was a family man. Will Rogers was very close to his wife, Betty, and their four children.
While a fast horse thrilled Will Rogers, he also loved flying. It was on a flight to Alaska in 1935 with a daring one-eyed Oklahoma pilot named Wiley Post that their plane crashed and both men lost their lives.
In mourning, the world reflected on Will Rogers' words:
"If you live life right, death is a joke as far as fear is concerned."