By Michael Baadke
Will Rogers, the famous humorist, actor and writer, was born William Penn Adair Rogers on Nov. 4, 1879, in Oologah, Indian Territory, now a town in Rogers County, Okla.
The county is named after Rogers’ father, Clement Vann Rogers, a Cherokee rancher, judge and Indian Territory senator.
Will Rogers was named after Cherokee leader William Penn Adair.
As a young man, Rogers worked as a rancher and traveled to South America and Africa before returning to the United States and finding success as an entertainer on the vaudeville circuit.
He perfected tricks with his lariat, and branched out to share his homespun humor and observations. As his fame grew he appeared in silent films and started writing a newspaper column. Soon he was one of the best-loved personalities in America.
His amusing observations of human foibles included the government and common folk, such as “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.”
But his genial nature was reflected in his self-penned epitaph: “I never met a man I didn’t like.”
Rogers, an enthusiastic advocate for advancing aviation, was on an aerial tour with pilot Wiley Post in 1935 when the plane they were flying in crashed in a lagoon near Point Barrow, Alaska. Both men were killed; Rogers was 55 years old.
A 3¢ stamp honoring Rogers was issued Nov. 4, 1948, on what would have been his 69th birthday (Scott 975).
Exactly 31 years later, on Rogers’ birth centenary, Nov. 4, 1979, a 15¢ commemorative stamp honoring him (Scott 1801) was issued in the Performing Arts series.