Is there anybody today like Will Rogers? Will there ever be?
Will Rogers is a name I've heard before. But until I visited his boyhood home, as well as the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, Oklahoma, I had no idea how significant this man really was: An entertainer, a writer, a philosopher, a cowboy, a world traveler -- an everyman at the turn of the century, someone that nearly every man could relate to.
Rogers was born here in Oklahoma on a Ranch not far from Claremore. His birthplace home (pictured above) has been preserved, and today visitors can walk through and see the house as it likely would have looked during Will's childhood there. The working ranch also has cattle, chickens, a peacock and other animals that Will's family raised.
At the memorial museum in Claremore, the stature of this man comes more clearly into view. Exhibits show the breadth of the man's talent, and his influence on the American people. He starred in dozens of movies, and wrote a daily newspaper column that was at one time run by every major daily paper in the United States. In his heyday, he was the most famous man in the world, and remains one of the most beloved everyman figures in American history.
Rogers died tragically early, now a generation ago. I left the museum today wondering how he will be remembered by young people who have never seen his films or columns, and who there is in today's world to take his place. Certainly no Hollywood celebrity, or sports superstar or political figure rises to his stature. And in today's fractured world of celebrity tabloids and red-state/blue-state acrimony, I doubt that anyone ever will.
Will Rogers was one of a kind. And even though I was not alive to know his work firsthand, I am glad to have learned about such an extraordinary man.