1935 Fifty Years Ago

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On the evening of August 15 a small private plane carrying two men crashed in a shallow lagoon just south of Point Barrow, Alaska. The pilot, Wiley Post, a record-setting aviator, was killed. So too was Post’s passenger, a fifty-six-year-old man upon whose humor and clearsightedness the country had come to depend—the Cherokee Indian, cowboy, comedian, actor, columnist, and radio commpntatnr Will Rogers.

It could be said that Rogers was on intimate terms with more Americans than any other man of his day. They saw him in films; they listened to his radio broadcasts; and when they opened their newspapers, many turned first to Rogers’s brief “Daily Telegram” or his weekly column.

But the regard Americans had for Rogers resulted from more than just his familiarity. The comedian had a forthright manner and a down-home way that reminded people of a simpler, more rural America. When he told jokes about the day’s events, he slyly exposed the bumblings of Congress or the inanities of our foreign policy. Part rustic philosopher, part court jester, Rogers helped the nation through some of its most painful years. His death that August stunned the country.

•August 14: Social Security is approved.

September 8: Sen. Huey P. Long is assassinated.