William Penn Adair Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935) was an American stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator from Oklahoma. He was a Cherokee citizen born in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory.
Known as “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son”, Rogers was born to a Cherokee family in Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma). As an entertainer and humorist, he traveled around the world three times, made 71 films (50 silent films and 21 “talkies”), and wrote more than 4,000 nationally syndicated newspaper columns.
By the mid-1930s Rogers was hugely popular in the United States, its leading political wit and the highest paid of Hollywood film stars. He died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post when their small airplane crashed in northern Alaska.
Rogers’s 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 found general acclaim from a national audience with no one offended. His aphorisms, couched in humorous terms, were widely quoted: “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
Rogers even provided an epigram on his most famous epigram:
When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: “I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I dident [sic] like.” I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.