The name Will Rogers is printed on nearly every surface in Claremore, but we rarely take the time to reflect on the man himself and his legacy.
So says, Will Rogers Memorial Foundation Board Member Crystal Campbell.
“I think in Claremore, a lot of people know him just because we live here, but a lot of people don’t understand just how important he was,” Campbell said. Campbell highlighted how Rogers essentially invented the talk show, how he championed bipartisanship and how he helped pave the way for technological advancements in aviation. All that in addition to being a popular movie star and a globe trekker.
“He was such a pioneer for his time,” Campbell said. “To know that he was from this area, this was where he was choosing to call home forever, that’s pretty awesome.”
Although Rogers was born and raised in Oologah, shortly before his death he and his wife had purchased the land where the museum sits now in Claremore and had plans to build their home on that spot.
“We take advantage, because we get used to that museum being up there on the hill,” Campbell said. “We take prom pictures up there, we take family photos there, we take our kids trick-or-treating there, we go easter egg hunting there, we go sledding down the hill in the winter time when it’s snowy. The hill represents so much more, it’s a part of who we are.”
“Just like you take care of your home, we need to show a little love back to the museum,” Campbell said.
The Will Rogers Memorial Museums and Will Rogers Memorial Foundation are asking for financial support to pay for the renovations.
“The goal for this fundraising event is $100,000,” Campbell said.
Upgrades include replacing the 35 year old theater seats, updating the screen and sound system and improving the audience and stage lighting.
“We haven’t really done many renovations to the memorial over the years,” Campbell said.
Most of the museum was constructed in 1938, and dedicated with a speech by President Franklin Roosevelt. Additions were added in 1944, 1982 and 1995.
“Updating the theater will allow for better quality viewing of his movies for visitors and school trips,” Campbell said. The goal of the renovation is, “to make sure that every visitor that comes into our community understands just the massive individual that Will Rogers was and still is.”
Executive Director of Will Rogers Memorial Museums Tad Jones agreed.
“The theater is one of the most used areas of the museum with every school group and tour group stopping and watching documentaries,” Jones said. “It desperately needs to be renovated so that we can provide a better venue for all our visitors.”
Donors over $1,000 will receive personalized seats and reserved tickets. There is a fundraiser event at the theater on November 1.
“We have so much to be proud of in Claremore,” Campbell said. “Will Rogers, his legacy, is something we should be extremely proud to carry on.”