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  • Matthew Kerns

Will Rogers

Today's "Google Doodle" celebrates the November 4th, 1879 birthday of Will Rogers. We've documented Rogers' connection to Texas Jack Omohundro before: Will's first job in show business was in Ladysmith, South Africa, where he showed up at Texas Jack's Wild West Circus to ask for a job helping with the horses.

"He had a little Wild West aggregation that visited the camps and did a tremendous business," Rogers later told the New York Times, "I did some roping and riding, and Jack, who was one of the smartest showmen I ever knew, took a great interest in me. It was he who gave me the idea for my original stage act with my pony. I learned a lot about the show business from him. He could do a bum act with a rope that an ordinary man couldn't get away with, and make the audience think it was great, so I used to study him by the hour, and from him I learned the great secret of the show business—knowing when to get off. It's the fellow who knows when to quit that the audience wants more of." That was Texas Jack Junior—not the son of J.B. Omohundro, but a young man he rescued on the plains in the late 1860s after his family was killed by hostile Comanche. With his family dead, the young man took the name of the cowboy who had rescued him. Will Rogers, in a very real sense, was carrying on the cowboy showman tradition started by Texas Jack Omohundro when he first stepped on stage in Chicago on December 16, 1872. Consider this: Will Rogers became famous for his skill with a lasso, the tool of the cowboy trade that Texas Jack introduced to show business.

Will Rogers

Rogers also incorporated a homespun folksy humor that quickly overshadowed his expertise on horseback and his twirling lasso. Consider a few of his more pithy sayings:


"A king can stand people's fighting, but he can't last long if people start thinking." "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat."


"Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment."


"Never let yesterday use up too much of today"


"Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."


"Too many people spend money they haven't earned to buy things they don't want to impress people they don't like."


Will Rogers died in a plane crash in Alaska on August 15th, 1935. Before his death, the State of Oklahoma commissioned a statue of him to place in the United States Capital's National Statuary Hall collection. Rogers agreed on the condition that his statue face the House Chamber, so that Rogers could "keep an eye on Congress." Since the statue's installation in 1939, each President of the United States of America has rubbed the Will Rogers statue's left foot for good luck before stepping into the House Chamber to deliver the State of the Union address.

Will Rogers statue at the U.S. Capital Building

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