Will Rogers died in a airplane crash in 1935. Yet Oklahoma's favorite humorist remains a beloved and well remembered figure in the Sooner state and beyond.
A new Rogers biography has just been published. The book, by Richard D. White, Jr. of Louisiana State University, emphasizes the political side of Rogers' career. "History has done a disservice to Will Rogers," White writes. A closer look at his life, the author says, reveals the man as "a true political insider with the power to shape public opinion and ultimately influence public policy."
We learned these facts from recent review of White's book in the New York Times Book Review, which highlights both Rogers' political power as well as his "eagerness to please," as reviewer John Schwartz puts it.
That eagerness, combined with Rogers' insider status, caused him to curb his criticism of John D. Rockefeller after a friendly visit to the millionaire's Florida mansion. More ominously, Rogers was also charmed by Benito Mussolini—a weakness in Rogers' "never met a man I didn't like" philosophy.
In his day, White concludes, Rogers was bigger and more influential than Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert or Rush Limbaugh. Rogers used his radio broadcasts and newspaper columns to support Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. He also made fun of Prohibition and warned of the rising threat of Germany in the early 1930s.
Based on this review, we're happy to recommend White's book, published by Texas Tech University Press. Check out the Amazon listing of the book here.