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William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers Passed Away

Today in Masonic history William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers passed away in 1935.

William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers was an American entertainer.

Rogers was born on November 4th, 1879 on the ranch owned by his parents called Dog Iron Ranch. The ranch was in Indian Territory, Rogers himself was a little more than one quarter Cherokee. His father was very prominent in Cherokee society. Rogers mother passed away when he was 11. Rogers did not get along with his father and the passing of his mother did not help the situation. The two started coming closer together after Rogers first made it in vaudeville, his father passed away before a full reconciliation. Rogers at times claimed to be a great student and at others claimed it took him 10 years to read the 4th grade primer. He dropped out of school in the 10th grade.

In 1901, Rogers and a friend left the United States for Argentina, there they hoped to become farmers. Unfortunately it did not work out and the two men lost all of their money. When Rogers' friend headed back to the United States, Rogers went to South Africa. Some claimed he went to work for the British Military breaking horses during the Boer War. The Boer War ended three months before Rogers arrived, so the theory is doubtful. He instead worked for "Texas Jack's Wild West Circus" as a roper. He gained a great deal of experience with the circus, before long Rogers decided to move on, this time to Australia, working for another circus on the recommendation of Texas Jack. In 1904, Rogers finally returned to the United States working on the Vaudeville circuit.

Rogers eventually went to New York City. At a performance at Madison Square Garden a steer got loose and tried to get up into the stands. Rogers was able to rope the steer. This led to Rogers being featured in various newspaper articles, it also led to a long standing performance at the Victoria Rooftop.

Rogers worked in various venues over the next decade. In 1915 Rogers began to appear in the Midnight Frolics put on by Florenz Ziegfeld. Eventually Rogers became part of the Ziegfeld Follies. He appeared in most of the Follies from 1916 to 1925. While appearing in the Follies he changed his act from the Ropin' Cowboy to the Talkin' Cowboy. One evening with President Woodrow Wilson in the audience he began talking off the cuff satirizing some of the Presidents policies. He had the President and the entire audience in stitches. In one night, he became a political satirist.

In 1918, Rogers signed with Samuel Goldwyn to make movies. He made 48 silent movies, not the best medium for a satirist. He made talking pictures as well, including A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur Court based on the Mark Twain book of the same name. Many compared Rogers to Twain in their writing styles.

In 1922, Rogers began writing for newspapers and various periodicals. He also wrote many books.

Starting in 1925, Rogers went on the lecture circuit traveling around the country and around the World delivering speeches to various groups and at various events.

In 1928, Rogers declared his mock candidacy for President of the United States. He claimed to be running as the "Bunkless candidate" for the Anti-Bunk Party. This was largely an excuse for Rogers to lampoon national political figures, which he did quite successfully. He made only one campaign promise if elected, to resign immediately. After the election, he declared himself victorious and immediately resigned.

Rogers became friends with Charles Lindbergh. Through their friendship Rogers became an advocate for flight. In 1935, famed pilot Wiley Post wanted to scout for a route from the West Coast to Russia. He enlisted Rogers to come with him. During a heavy storm in Alaska on August 15th, 1935, the two men set down in a lagoon when they became lost to for directions. On taking off an engine failed at low altitude. The plane crashed back into the lagoon shearing off one of the wings. The plane flipped upside down in shallow water, both men were killed instantly.

Rogers was a member of Claremore Lodge No. 53 in Oklahoma.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.