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Museum Honors America's Favorite Son

Andy Hogan takes us on a tour of the museum that honors Oklahoma’s favorite son, Will Rogers.
Museum Honors America's Favorite Son

Museum Honors America's Favorite Son

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Will Rogers

Will Rogers-Wiley Post Fly-In

Show Details

Show 1532: Museum Honors America's Favorite Son
Air Date: August 9, 2015

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Now, after Will Rogers’ tragic death in a plane crash in Barrow, Alaska, in 1935, Oklahomans wanted to do something special for its favorite son. That’s why they commissioned in the height of the Great Depression to build this museum overlooking the beautiful green hills of northeastern Oklahoma right here in Claremore. Our Courtenay DeHoff takes us in for a closer look.

[music]

Andy Hogan: He could nail people. He could take somebody that thought they were a little too important, and he’d just bring ’em down to level.

Courtenay DeHoff: One-third humor, one-third humanitarian and one third heart, Will Rogers is often referred to as Oklahoma’s favorite son, and the museum that has a horse-eye view over the city of Claremore honors him daily. Andy Hogan takes us on a tour of the museum.

Andy: Anyhow this room is set up, this room here.

Courtenay: And the life of the legendary Will Rogers.

Andy: Will Rogers of course being born, like anybody could be born right out here, he was not a poor man. Will was never a poor man, but he was common, he wanted to be common. He went out of his way to appear common. He wasn’t a put-on. What you saw was what you got. He had millions of dollars. He helped people; he gave away millions of dollars. He was quite a philanthropist, and he was the kind that didn’t want a splash made of it.

Courtenay: But he did make a splash in everything else he did.

Andy: He taught people to laugh at themselves. Like I say, he performed in front of several presidents. He appeared at the White House, spent the night in the White House with Calvin Coolidge when he was president, and also with Franklin Roosevelt. But he could tease those people, and they realized, you know, that he was merely teasing them. He said, “I’ve teased the important people of the world; I’ve teased the big men, and the big men will take teasing.” He said, “Sometimes a little man that thinks he is kind of big don’t take teasing too well.”

Courtenay: The museum honors Will Rogers and his family on the outside, and on the inside, the wonders of the most popular entertainer of his time ropes in tourists from all around the world.

Andy: The museum now is located on 29 acres that Will bought back in 1911. He bought all the land he could. He bought land in Oklahoma, he bought land in California. He said, you know, one time, “Buy all the land you can. That’s a good thing to spend your money on because they aren’t making any more of it.”

Courtenay: The entire world mourned when Rogers went down in a plane with fellow Oklahoman, Wiley Post, in Point Barrow, Alaska, a tragic death at the height of his popularity.

They climbed into the cabin of their plane, the Winnie Mae, waved the last goodbye to the many friends who had gathered to bid them Godspeed and disappeared into northern skies. A few days later Hollywood was stunned by news of their death.

Courtenay: Yet his legacy lives on.