Will Rogers and politics

Thursday, July 29th 2004, 9:58 am
By: News On 6

John Kerry’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention wasn’t a surprise, but in 1932, the delegates had to wake up the man they tried to nominate. His name was Will Rogers - Oklahoma's best known presidential candidate - even to this day.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says Joe Carter in Claremore knows the man who might have been Oklahoma's best chance at the White House. "He probably could have been elected as popular as he was."

He's talking about Will Rogers - who ran for president three times, 1924, 28 and 32. He was a friend of several presidents - but didn't really want to be one. "Will Rogers was the first man to run for president as a joke and his campaign pledge was if elected, I promise to resign.”

Rogers most visible run was a gag for Life Magazine in 1928. It was really a way to sell magazines - but he ended up speaking at both of the conventions. He went as a newsman - to gather material for his jokes. "On the floor there was a big fight at the Democratic Convention and Will was taking a nap in the press box when he found out some delegates from Arizona had nominated him and the whole Oklahoma delegation had voted for him and he was furious, he thought as a joke it was fine, but for real it was ridiculous.”

Will Rogers never made it the White House of course, but he ended up with a better library than most of the men who did. And in Claremore, they still sell the buttons from the campaign.

The Will Rogers Follies" tells a little of the story - and in 1992 the Democrats had the scene played out at their convention.

Back in Claremore, Joe Carter can only imagine the jokes that Will Rogers would get from today’s conventions - having once nearly been the nominee. Will Rogers got 22 votes in the 1932 convention - after Oklahoma's "Alfalfa Bill" Murray bowed out and pledged his delegates to Will.