William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers was a comedian, humorist, social commentator, vaudeville performer, actor, Native American and member of the Cherokee Nation. He is 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, 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: