Rogers, Will

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Rogers, Will

Rogers, Will (William Penn Adair Rogers), 1879–1935, American humorist, b. Oolagah, Indian Territory (now in Oklahoma). In his youth he worked as a cowboy in Oklahoma, and after traveling over the world, he returned to the United States and worked in vaudeville as a cowboy rope-twirler, joking casually with the audience. He was an immediate success when he joined the Ziegfeld Follies in 1915. Rogers gained a wide audience, starring in more than 70 motion pictures, writing six books, appearing on dozens of radio broadcasts, and writing a popular syndicated newspaper column. His salty comments on the political and social scene made the “cowboy philosopher” widely known. A constant booster of airplane travel, Rogers made several long airplane trips; he was killed with Wiley Post when their plane crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska.


See his autobiography (ed. by D. Day, 1949) and writings (1973); biography by R. D. White, Jr. (2011); D. R. Milsten, An Appreciation of Will Rogers (1976); P. C. Rollins, Will Rogers: A Bio-Bibliography (1984).

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Rogers, (William Penn Adair) Will

(1879–1935) humorist, stage/film/radio actor; born in Oolagah, Indian territory (now Oklahoma). Part Cherokee, he was a practicing cowboy but went abroad to seek adventure, beginning his career (1902) as a rider and trick roper in Wild West shows in South Africa and Australia. Returning to the U.S.A. (1904), he moved into vaudeville and Broadway musicals, becoming an especial favorite in the Ziegfield Follies (1916–24), by which time his act had begun to feature his own cracker-barrel wit and homespun philosophy. By 1918 he was making the first of many movies, and soon he projected his persona of the common-but-shrewd man through many mediums—as a popular radio performer, a syndicated newspaper columnist, author of several books, and a presidential candidate on the Anti-Bunk ticket (1928). His trademark line was, "All I know is what I read in the papers," which he used to launch his wry comments on the current scene. When he died with Wiley Post in a plane crash in Alaska, he was mourned as an authentic American folk hero.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.