“The day I roped Betty was the greatest performance of my life.”
In his later life, when Jim Rogers was asked to reflect upon his father, Will Rogers, he said, “We grew up with two men: WR and Dad.”
WR, of course, was the man in the limelight, the hardworking, consummate performer and communicator. Dad was the gentle, beloved father of Will, Jr., Mary, Jim, and Fred, who died as an infant.
“My parents were ideal,” Jim Rogers said. “One of the truest things Dad ever said was, ‘The day I roped Betty was the greatest performance of my life.’ And that’s true. If it had not been for Betty Blake from Rogers, Arkansas, there never would have been the Will Rogers much of the world knew and loved.”
Will Rogers was a huge fan of aviation. He often said it was the best way to travel. Will's first flight was in Atlantic City in 1915. While on European tours, Will used commercial air services extensively; annoyed at the lack of commercial flight routes in the U.S., he made it a habit to maintain friendships with aviators all over the country.
He was close to Charles Lindbergh and offered the family some respite from reporters during the weeks after the kidnapping of their son.
Will was one of the few allowed to hop on U.S. mail planes, paying his way by the pound like a parcel.
He supported Billy Mitchell throughout his court-martialing and was a proponent for the creation of an air force in U.S.
Will Rogers had a heart for people. His humanitarian efforts are often overlooked, but Will was very generous with his time and money.
In 1926, Will Rogers' support for an Indian Hospital to be built in his hometown of Claremore, OK was submitted along with supporting material for the associated legislation. It didn't pass that year, but later in 1929 the hospital became a reality.
Will took part in a flood relief tour in 1927 to support those affected by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
Will was instrumental in the relief effort to help Nicaragua rebuild after its capital, Managua, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931.
Will made more than 50 stops in 22 days during a three-state drought relief tour for the Red Cross in 1931.
Will performed in many benefits over the years, particularly but not exclusively, for the Red Cross for a variety of issues from flood and drought relief to support for the troops in WWI. He also regularly gave a portion of his own salary to each such relief project.