Claremore Daily Progress

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October 27, 2013

75th Anniversary

Will Rogers Days celebrates favorite son


Will Rogers Days began Nov. 4, 1938 as the biggest event in the history of Claremore and has continued to be one that stands out as an historic day. It began on a chilly day when some 50,000 people gathered for dedication of Will Rogers Memorial Museum.
Each year on Nov. 4, the anniversary of Will’s birth in 1879, people gather to mark the anniversary. In 1938, members of the Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club, of which Will was an honorary member, pledged to gather each year at the family gravesite to place a commemorative wreath. It continues to be an integral part of Will Rogers Days celebrations.
This year’s Will Rogers Days begins Friday.
Things have changed some since that first year. Will’s widow, Betty, and all three of her children, and Will’s sister, Sallie McSpadden, and her family, and others of Will’s kith and kin gathered on the hill where Mrs. Rogers donated a 20-acre plot of ground to build the Will Rogers Memorial. 
That first year was dotted with the rich and famous, Indian tribes, family members, friends and just plain folks who loved Will Rogers and were happy to celebrate his memory. The famous Jo Davidson statue that greets visitors to the museum was unveiled when the Rogers’ daughter, Mary, pulled the cord to gasps from the audience when the statue was revealed.
President Roosevelt made the dedication speech by nationwide radio network. There was gridlock on roads in and out of Claremore as the masses came to witness the    opening.
Sometimes Nov. 4 has been sunny and bright, other times it has been windy and freezing drizzle. But little has kept the people away from marking the anniversary of the famous man born in Indian Territory whose influence is still felt world-wide.
Betty Rogers made her last trip to the museum in a simple wreath-laying ceremony in 1943.

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