Will Rogers: A Political Life
By Richard D. White Jr.
(Texas Tech University Press, $29.95)
Oklahoma’s Will Rogers was at the peak of his international fame as an entertainer when he and pilot Wiley Post were killed in a 1935 Alaska plane crash.
Yet, as this intriguing political biography shows, Rogers was much more than a popular homespun humorist, radio commentator and media celebrity. He was also a political commentator with virtually open-door access to the White House and Capitol Hill.
A strong isolationist, Will Rogers wanted America to stay out of foreign wars. Yet, he also was an ambassador without portfolio and sometimes was sent to foreign countries to help repair troubled diplomatic relations or observe and report on military conflicts.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched his famous Sunday night radio “fireside chats” to sell his New Deal to a Depression-ravaged America, Will Rogers’ show aired first, and the entertainer often previewed what the President was about to say.
Richard D. White Jr.’s other books include Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long and Roosevelt the Reformer: Theodore Roosevelt as Civil Service Commissioner, 1889-1895.
The author is a professor of public administration at Louisiana State University.
— Si Dunn