Name at birth: William Penn Adair Rogers
Will Rogers was a one of America's brightest media stars during the 1920s and '30s, a Cherokee cowboy-philosopher who did rope tricks while making pointed -- and humorous -- political observations. Rogers grew up on a ranch in Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. After a few years as a rancher and cowboy, he began performing rope tricks and made it to vaudeville. He signed on with the Ziegfield Follies in 1915 and soon became a popular and well-paid stage performer. By 1918 he was starring in and producing movies in Hollywood. By the end of the '20s Rogers was a movie star, radio star and successful newspaper columnist. He had a way of making insightful and witty remarks on complicated issues, in simple terms and without rancor, a style audiences adored. Rogers is still famous for saying "I only know what I read in the newspaper" and "I never met a man I didn't like." He was killed in 1935 with pilot Wiley Post when their plane crashed in Alaska.
In the Tony Award-winning musical The Will Rogers Follies, Rogers was portrayed by Keith Carradine… In the 1952 movie The Story of Will Rogers, Rogers was portrayed by his son, Will Rogers, Jr…. Between 1970 and 2000 Rogers was portrayed on stage by James Whitmore in the one-man show Will Rogers’ U.S.A.