Will Rogers Jr.

Will Rogers Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 16th district
In office
January 3, 1943  May 23, 1944
Preceded by Leland M. Ford
Succeeded by Ellis E. Patterson
Personal details
Born William Vann Rogers
(1911-10-20)October 20, 1911
New York City
Died July 9, 1993(1993-07-09) (aged 81)
Tubac, Arizona
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Stanford University

William Vann Rogers, generally known as Will Rogers Jr. (October 20, 1911 – July 9, 1993), was a son of legendary humorist Will Rogers (1879–1935) and his wife, the former Betty Blake (1879–1944). He was a Democratic U. S. Representative from California from January 3, 1943, until May 23, 1944, when he resigned to return to the United States Army. Rogers had several other careers, notably as a newspaper owner/publisher, an actor, writer, and a political commentator.


Rogers at Alaska Methodist University during the 1967–1968 academic year, showing attendees his skill with a lasso.

Rogers was born in New York City, where his father was performing. He grew up in Beverly Hills, California, and attended school there. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University in 1935. On completing his studies, he served as publisher of the Beverly Hills Citizen newspaper, a role in which he continued until 1953. He had been commissioned a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, but did not go on active duty. With U.S. entry into World War II, however, he enlisted as a private in June 1942, and was commissioned in the field artillery the following month and assigned to the 893rd Tank destroyer Battalion.

While on active duty, Rogers was elected to the House of Representatives from California, and was sworn into office on January 3, 1943. He served in the 78th Congress. He did not complete his term, however, returning to active duty in the Army after resigning from Congress on May 23, 1944.[1]

A confidential 1943 analysis of the House Foreign Affairs Committee by Isaiah Berlin for the British Foreign Office described Rogers as:[2]

A new-comer to the House. Son of a very celebrated father. A sincere and somewhat impassioned young man who believes strongly in the Wallace type of internationalism and in cooperation with the United Nations. A trifle callow and politically inexperienced, he will undoubtedly be a vigorous and enthusiastic champion of all-out post-war co-operation with the United Nations. His fervent adherence to the liberal ideals of the "New Republic" may tend to make him critical of the British Empire.

After his resignation, Rogers was assigned to the 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion and served in the European campaign in George Patton's Third United States Army. Rogers was wounded in action and also received a Bronze Star. He was released from active duty on March 1, 1946.

Later in 1946, Rogers won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator from California, but lost in the November general election to the incumbent senator, William F. Knowland. (Coincidentally, both men would eventually commit suicide.) Rogers was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1948, 1952, and 1956. Other government service included terms as a member of the California State Parks Commission (1958–1962; chairman 1960–1962), and special assistant to the Commission on Indian Affairs during the Johnson administration (1967–1969).

Rogers had a minor career as an actor and was most noted for playing his father (whom he closely resembled), particularly in The Story of Will Rogers (1952), Wild Heritage (1958) in which he played a judge, and in 1982 (in voice only) in The American Adventure at Disney's Epcot in Florida. He also appeared frequently in the 1950s television anthology series, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars. Rogers starred as "Tom Brewster" in The Boy from Oklahoma, a 1954 Western movie directed by Michael Curtiz, the basis for the 1957 television series Sugarfoot, but the studio cast Will Hutchins in Rogers' part for the TV version. He also starred in Rogers of the Gazette, a CBS Radio series in 1953–54[3] that lasted one season, playing the role of a small-town newspaper owner. Rogers was one of several actors to host syndicated reruns of Death Valley Days (whose original run was hosted for one season by Ronald Reagan), with the episodes he hosted airing under the title The Pioneers. For one season in 1958 he was host of the CBS morning show and was replaced by Jimmy Dean.

In his later years, Rogers retired to his ranch at Tubac, Arizona. In poor health after suffering several strokes, having heart problems, and having had hip replacements, Rogers committed suicide in 1993 at the age of 81. He was buried next to his wife in the Tubac Cemetery. Rogers was survived by his two adopted sons and his brother, James Rogers.[4]


  1. "ROGERS, William Vann, Jr.". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  2. Hachey, Thomas E. (Winter 1973–1974). "American Profiles on Capitol Hill: A Confidential Study for the British Foreign Office in 1943" (PDF). Wisconsin Magazine of History. 57 (2): 141–153. JSTOR 4634869. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 21, 2013.
  3. Kirby, Walter (July 5, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved July 5, 2015 via Newspapers.com.
  4. "Will Rogers Jr., Humorist's Son, soldier, Politician and actor, 81". New York Times. July 11, 1993. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Leland M. Ford
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 16th congressional district

Succeeded by
Ellis E. Patterson
Party political offices
Preceded by
Minor Moore
Democratic nominee for Senator from California
(Class 1)

Succeeded by
Clair Engle
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