hall of famers who have kept Will Rogers’ legacy alive 

By Joseph H. Carter, Sr., 1992 Inductee 

Will Rogers’ success and fame as a self-taught journalist won him a membership in the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame. Three other Hall of Fame members have worked to keep alive Rogers’ legacy.

Dr. Reba Collins and Joseph H. Carter, Sr. were directors of the Will Rogers Memorial Commission. They also churned out books and publications based on their long studies of Will Rogers’ life from 1879-1935.

The third Hall of Fame member, Bob G. Burke, wrote a definitive book on Wiley Post, the Oklahoma aviator who was piloting the single-engine plane that crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska, killing both Will Rogers and Post. 

Burke also edited Will Rogers: American Wordsmith written by Collins and published in 2011 with a foreword by Governor George Nigh. While a top aide to Governor David Hall, Carter recognized that Dr. Collins had written her doctoral dissertation on Will Rogers. He then championed and handled her appointment to the Memorial Commission where she later was tapped as director.

During her years directing the Claremore museum, Collins edited several books refreshing the works, history and legacy of Will Rogers, who wrote more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper pundit columns and a half-dozen books. 

Born in the Cherokee Nation near present-day Oologah, Will Rogers also starred in 71 movies, played in wild west shows, vaudeville, and was a famous Broadway comedian. He is known as “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son.”

Carter and his wife, Michelle, were both Memorial Commission directors who raised financing and oversaw publication of the five-volume, 3,002-page The Papers of Will Rogers, published by University of Oklahoma Press. Carter, a newspaperman and wire service correspondent for 17 years, wrote two biographies of Will Rogers published by Harper-Collins and Gibbs Smith Publishers. Carter also wrote specialty yarns about Will Rogers that were published in several magazines.

Joseph H. Carter, Sr. and his wife, Michelle, served as directors of the Will Rogers Memorial Commission in Claremore, Oklahoma for 20 years. 2019, UCO Photographic Services.