Arts & Entertainment

Will Rogers' legacy continues 75 years after his death

Will Rogers
Will Rogers
Courtesy of the Will Rogers Institute

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Will Rogers acted in vaudeville, commented on the radio, and wrote more than 4,000 newspaper columns. He was a cowboy philosopher who knew how to poke fun at the prominent people and issues of his day.

Rogers died 75 years ago Sunday. This weekend, the Will Rogers Ranch Foundation commemorates his life. Jennifer Rogers-Etcheverry never knew her great-grandfather (he died in a plane crash in 1935), but told KPCC’s Steve Julian that she remembers stories her late grandpa would tell her.

"It's been our mission to keep his legacy and memory alive," said Rogers-Etcheverry. "Unfortunately, as generations pass by, people of my age or my children's age don't know who he is." The Will Rogers Ranch Foundation reaches out through California state parks and other places that memorialized Rogers.

Rogers was a family man. "He loved to come home, and the first thing he would do is grab the kids, and they'd all go saddle up horses and go for a ride."

He lived to be only 55 years old, dying in a 1935 plane crash. "He did quite a bit in those young 55 years, didn't he?" said Rogers-Etcheverry.

Rogers' prolific career included over 70 movies and a daily newspaper column that reached 40 million people, at a time when the American population was only 120 million.

Rogers was also a pioneer in and an advocate for aviation. "Because of him, our military has the Air Force," said Rogers-Etcheverry.

The Will Rogers Ranch Foundation is holding a sold out Polo Cup and champagne fundraiser brunch on Sunday at the ranch. However, the park is still open to the public and will feature a tribute at 2 p.m., as well as flyovers in memory of Will Rogers.