William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers
(November 4, 1879 — August 15, 1935) was an American cowboy, comedian, humorist, social commentator, vaudeville performer and actor and one of the best-known celebrities in the 1920s and 1930s.
Known as Oklahoma's favorite son, Rogers was born to a prominent Indian Territory family. He traveled around the world three times, made 71 movies (50 silent films and 21 "talkies"), wrote more than 4,000 nationally-syndicated newspaper columns, and became a world-famous figure. By the mid-1930s, Rogers was adored by the American people. He was the leading political wit of the Progressive Era, and was the top-paid movie star in Hollywood at the time. Rogers died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post, when their small airplane crashed near Barrow, Alaska.
His vaudeville rope act led to success in the Ziegfeld Follies, which in turn led to the first of his many movie contracts. His 1920s syndicated newspaper column and his radio appearances increased his visibility and popularity. Rogers crusaded for aviation expansion, and provided Americans with first-hand accounts of his world travels. His earthy anecdotes and folksy style allowed him to poke fun at gangsters, prohibition, politicians, government programs, and a host of other controversial topics in a way that was readily appreciated by a national audience, with no one offended. His short aphorisms, couched in humorous terms, were widely quoted; one example is his well-known quip, "I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat."
Rogers even provided an epigram on his most famous epigram:
- When I die, my epitaph or whatever you call those signs on gravestones is going to read: "I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn't like."
- Rogers, Will. Letters of a Self-Made Diplomat to His President (1926) online edition
- Rogers, Will, and Joseph H. Carter. Never Met a Man I Didn't Like (1991) excerpt and text search
- Rogers, Will. Will Rogers at the Ziegfeld Follies. ed. by Arthur Frank Wertheim, (1992). 288 pp.
- Rogers, Will. Will Rogers' Weekly Articles. Vol. 1, The Harding/Coolidge Years, 1922-1925. ed. by James M. Smallwood, (1980). 431 pp.
- Rogers, Will. Will Rogers' Weekly Articles. Vol. 2: The Coolidge Years, 1925-1927. ed. by Steven K. Gragert, (1980). 368 pp.
- Rogers, Will. Will Rogers' Weekly Articles. Vol. 3: The Coolidge Years, 1927-1929. ed. by Steven K. Gragert, (1981). 304 pp.
- Rogers, Will. Will Rogers' Weekly Articles. Vol. 4: The Hoover Years, 1929-1931. ed. by Steven K. Gragert, (1981). 278 pp.
- Rogers, Will. Will Rogers's Daily Telegrams. Vol. l, The Coolidge Years, 1926-1929. ed. by James M. Smallwood, 1978. 453 pp.
- Rogers, Will. Will Rogers' Daily Telegrams. Vol. 4, The Roosevelt Years, 1933-1935. ed. by James M. Smallwood, (1979). 457 pp.
- Rogers, Will. Convention Articles of Will Rogers. ed. by Joseph A. Stout, 1976. 174 pp.
- Rogers, Will. The Writings of Will Rogers. Volume 3: Illiterate Digest. ed. by Joseph A. Stout, Jr., 1974. 230 pp. online edition
- Rogers, Will. Autobiography (1948), ed. by Donald Day; 410pp; online edition
- Rogers, Will. Rogers-isms: the Cowboy Philosopher on the Peace Conference, (1919). Online at Project Gutenberg
- Sterling, Bryan B., and Frances N. Sterling, eds. Will Rogers Speaks: Over 1,000 Timeless Quotations for Public Speakers (And Writers, Politicians Comedians, Browsers) (1995).
- The Papers of Will Rogers