Well-known Oklahomans, who have a history with the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, will headline The Event.
The first major fundraiser for the Will Rogers Memorial Foundation will be Sept. 19, on the Museum grounds.
Former Oklahoma Governors George Nigh and Frank Keating are honorary co-chairs. Linda Bradshaw of Tulsa, a Will Rogers Memorial Roper (docent) and member of the Foundation Board, is event chairperson.
“Our goal is to build support locally, regionally and nationally to enhance Museum programming and provide capital improvements,” Bradshaw said.
Presenting sponsor for the Memorial Museum’s 75th Diamond Jubilee gala is the Cherokee Nation.
A second event will be a Friday night celebration at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. Presenting sponsor for the Cain’s event is The David J. Chernicky Trust. All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the Foundation.
Keynote speaker for the Claremore gala will be Judge Robert Henry, who headlined the 70th anniversary of the Museum’s opening and Will Rogers’ 129th birthday.
The former chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit, and former Oklahoma attorney general, is well-known as a Will Rogers’ scholar, often quoting Will in his many public appearances. He made a guest appearance in “Will Rogers and American Politics,” an award-winning documentary produced by Rogers State University Television.
He left his justice post in 2009 to become Oklahoma City University president.
Gov. Nigh remembers Aug. 15, 1935. An Oklahoma native, he was eight-years-old and on the family’s first-ever vacation. Traffic came to a stop, grown men cried and a newspaper EXTRA was delivered to the loud cry on the streets that Will Rogers and Wiley Post had been killed in a plane crash.
Now 86, Nigh could not have imagined then that he would carry the banner for the 1979 International Celebration of the 100th anniversary of Will Rogers’ birth, sharing the chairmanship with Joel McCrea, Will’s Hollywood friend.
As an Oklahoma state legislator, a lieutenant governor, and governor, he has worked with every Will Rogers Memorial Museum director since his early days with Paula and Bob Love, then Dr. Reba Collins and Delmar Collins, Joe and Michelle Carter, and Steve Gragert. He was a leading force behind Claremore lawmakers for increased funding for the Claremore Museum.
Now, he has thrown his efforts into making The Event a success to help Will Rogers Memorial Foundation raise support for the Museum, Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch and the Legacy of Oklahoma’s Favorite Son.
He still feels the same sense of state pride he felt the day in 1935 when “the whole world stood still to honor an Oklahoman.”
Gov. Keating learned what it was to go head-on with Claremore area lawmakers for Museum funding during his term of office. He developed a different kind of relationship with Will Rogers when he wrote a popular children’s book, Will Rogers: An American Legend, illustrated by Oklahoma artist Mike Wimmer.
Entertaining at The Event will be The Tulsa Playboys and country and bluegrass fiddler Jana Jae. Borrowing from Will’s early brand of entertainment will be World Champion Trick Roping title holders Kowboy Kal Cook of Apache, and Doug Smith of Medway Ohio, and Will Rogers Memorial Museum’s Andy Hogan, a Will Rogers interpreter and Museum historical guide.
Will Rogers Memorial Foundation members are making early contacts for major donors to be announced at The Event. Sponsorship opportunities as well as individual tickets are available now at www.willrogers.com and click on The Event, or call (918) 341-0719 or (800) 324-9455.
Will Rogers Memorial Foundation president is Dr. Richard Mosier, former president of Rogers State University. Phil Albert, Pelco Structural LLC Claremore, is vice president.
The Foundation’s Mission Statement is “Secure, Expand and Celebrate the Legacy of Will Rogers.”
Other Foundation board members are Will Rogers Memorial Commissioners Jim Hartz of Alexandria, Va., who will be master of ceremonies; Steve Turnbo, Tulsa; and Will Rogers’ grandson, Kem Rogers, Bakersfield, Calif. Also Chad Choat and Jack Spinks, Claremore; Carl Milam, Oklahoma City, great-great-nephew of Will Rogers; and Cheryl Cohenour, Jim Halsey, Jody McIntyre, Ken Neal, Deacon Turner, Beth Bovaird and Janet Youngblood, Tulsa.