OOLOGAH, Okla. (KFOR) — On Nov. 4, 1879, beloved humorist and “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son” Will Rogers was born in Indian Territory near Oologah.
Both of Rogers’s parents were part Cherokee, and his father, Clement Vann Rogers, built a house and ran a successful ranch business on tribal land in the Cooweescoowee District before the Civil War.
Rogers spent his time as a boy on the ranch and at several boarding schools in the territory. At 17, he dropped out of school and headed for the West.
After working on several ranches in the Texas Panhandle, Rodgers returned to Oologah in 1898 and later established his Dog Iron cattle brand. However, Rodgers became more interested in testing his riding and roping skills pre-rodeo-era contests.
Despite his fathers efforts to “settle” him on the ranch, Rogers resisted as he sought out opportunities to work in show business.
What started as spinning ropes in Wild West shows led to appearances in 71 movies in his lifetime. Movies were only a part of Rogers’s legacy, though; he was also known as political commentator, philanthropist and world traveler, among other things.
Will Rogers died on Aug. 15, 1935, in a plane crash near the town of Barrow, Alaska. A period of national mourning followed his death.
For more information on the life of Will Rogers, visit the Oklahoma Historical Society’s website.