“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” – Will Rogers
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history’s most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors’ American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America’s most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
Biographers of Will Rogers are always faced with a tough task, because the list of things Will Rogers didn’t do is a much shorter one than the list of things he did. By the time he died in 1935 in a plane crash in Alaska, he was one of the most famous men in the world and one of the most versatile celebrities. With a career spanning several decades and most of his life, Rogers not only dabbled in vaudeville, film, writing, and politics but reached the pinnacle of most of those professions, even if they were more like hobbies to him. By the 1930s, he was not only a syndicated columnist but also the highest paid actor in Hollywood and widely considered an important voice in the Democratic Party. Rogers was also frequently on the radio and frequently on the move, traveling around the world several times and traveling when he died.
While he was famous among his contemporaries for a wide variety of things, Will Rogers is still a household name nearly 80 years after his death. Even those who don’t recall everything that he packed into his 55 years – the live shows, the movies, the radio broadcasts, and the 4,000 newspaper columns that were read by nearly a full third of the population – remember what Rogers stood for.