Back in 1945, there were two commemorative coin bills introduced into the House of Representatives to honor the memory of humorist Will Rogers. Rogers was a multi-talented performer and author, enjoying much success as a movie star, stage performer and radio personality. With his western-themed act and homespun humor, Rogers captured the heart of America during the 1920s and 1930s -- to say that he was "beloved" would be an understatement. Rogers met an untimely death in an airplane accident while traveling in Alaska gathering new material for his newspaper column; the private plane accident occurred on 15 August 1935.
So, given his popularity and place of honor in American culture, it is really no surprise that a commemorative coin for Rogers would be considered as a lasting remembrance of his life. What is a bit strange about the two bills introduced in 1945 is the fact that they were competing bills for similar purposes. One bill was introduced on behalf of the Will Rogers Memorial Coin Committee and Will Rogers Post #539 of the American Legion, Department of California, while the other listed the Will Rogers Memorial Commission of Oklahoma as its sponsor. So, one bill for California, Rogers home during the later years of his life and site of his last live performance -- and one bill for Oklahoma, Rogers' birthplace and home for his early years.
The bills were similar in the fact that the proceeds from the sale of the coins were to be used "to purchase, construct, and maintain suitable memorials to the memory of Will Rogers..." (both bills contained this exact language). Both bills called for a commemorative half-dollar, but neither bill specified the number of coins to be struck, which mint or mints were to be used for coining or for how long the coins could be struck.
Neither of the bills would ultimately be approved, and so the raising of funds to construct fitting memorials to Rogers would have to come from other sources (as would have been likely even if the coins were approved). The needed funds ultimately did come, as both states would honor Rogers with noteworthy museums, memorials and historic sites.
A few of my favorite Will Rogers quotes:
- On Government: Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate; now what's going to happen to us with both a Senate and a House?
- On Diplomacy: Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock.
- On Investing: Don't gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it.
- On Marriage and Fame: I'm not a real movie star. I've still got the same wife I started out with twenty-eight years ago.
- On Personal Behavior: Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.