Will Rogers (November 4, 1879 - August 15, 1935) was an American humorist and entertainer. Born in Indian Territory (he was part Cherokee) in what would later become the state of Oklahoma, he grew up as a cowboy, with a special knack for rodeo tricks, including bare-back horse riding and rope twirling.
He received sporadic formal education between 1887 and 1898, when he left home to become a cowboy on the Eking Ranch in Lipscomb County, Texas, near the town of Highness. After managing his father's ranch from 1899 to 1902, he sailed for South America, where he spent five months with the gauchos of the Argentine pampas. Later in 1902, the still-restless Rogers sailed for South Africa, where he took a job breaking in horses for the British Royal Army. While in South Africa, he began his show business career, where he joined "Texas Jack's Wild West Show," to be billed as "The Cherokee Kid."
Joining the Writhe Brothers' circus in 1903, he toured Australia and New Zealand before returning to the United States the following year to appear at the St. Louis Exposition and receive his first vaudeville bookings in Chicago. He made his first appearance in New York City in 1905 and, over the next ten years, made three trips to Europe and traveled extensively in Canada and his native United States. During this time, he also made his first airplane flight in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as a passenger.
From 1916 to 1925, Rogers appeared occasionally with the famed Ziegfield Follies; he made his first motion picture in 1918 -- "Laughing Bill Hide" -- and moved to California in 1919 to work in the Golden studios. The year 1922 proved a landmark one for the cowboy-humorist, as he began a weekly syndicated column which eventually reached a large readership through some 350 newspapers. He maintained this regularly featured column until his death in 1935.
From 1925 to 1928, Rogers traveled the length and breadth of the United States in a "lecture tour." During this time he became the first civilian to fly from coast to coast with pilots flying the mail in early air mail flights. The National Press Club of Washington, DC, dubbed him "Ambassador at Large of the United States;" and, in 1927, he visited Mexico City with the transatlantic aviation pioneer Charles A. Lindbergh as a guest of Ambassador Dwight Morrow. In subsequent years, Rogers gave numerous after-dinner speeches; became a popular convention speaker; gave benefits for victims of floods, droughts, or earthquakes. After the Great Depression hit the United States, Rogers gave radio talks on "unemployment," with ex-President of the United States Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States Herbert Hoover, and former Presidential candidate Al Smith.
He made a trip to the Orient in 1931 and to Central and South America the following year. In 1934, he made a globe-girdling tour and returned to play the lead in Eugene O'Neill's stage play, "Ah, Wilderness!" Also during the period [[1930 to 1935, he made movies for Fox studios and radio broadcasts for the Gulf Oil Company.
Through Rogers' continuing series of columns between 1922 and 1935, as well as in his personal appearances and radio broadcasts, he won the loving admiration of the American people, poking jibes in witty ways at the issues of the day and prominent people -- often politicians. He wrote from a non-partisan point of view and became a friend of presidents and a confidant of the great. Loved for his cool mind and warm heart, he was often considered the successor to such greets as Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and Artemus Ward.
Rogers moved to Hollywood in 1934, and his career in acting immediately took off. He starred in silent and later sound films. At the same time, he also began writing a popular syndicated column called "Will Rogers Says." In it, he expressed his disappointment with big government and the effect it had on the nation, particularly during the Depression era. His wit was often caustic: as he explained, "There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you." Nevertheless, he identified with the Democratic Party, saying "I don't belong to any organized party. I'm a Democrat," and was a vocal supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At one point, he was even asked to run for governor of Oklahoma, the party hoping to benefit from his immense popularity.
An avid booster of aviation, Rogers undertook a polar flight with a fellow Oklahoman, Wiley Post, in the summer of 1935. Post's plane crashed at Point Barrow, Alaska on 15 August 1935, killing both Post and Will Rogers.
In 1944 his body was moved from a holding vault in California to the grounds of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma. Later in 1944, Mrs. Rogers was interred beside him.
Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was named after him.