Home Celebrity Cowboy humorist/celebrity Will Rogers attended military school in Boonville

Cowboy humorist/celebrity Will Rogers attended military school in Boonville

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Will Rogers rose to stardom in the early 1900s, and in addition to sharing his insightful and humorous thoughts on topics such as life and politics, he also achieved stardom through roles in vaudeville tours and films. Become a household name.

In his later years, however, a common theme for the Oklahoma native’s musings was his two years as a cadet at Kemper Military Academy in Booneville.

William Penn Adair Rogers was born in 1879 on his parents’ sprawling ranch in Ologa, Oklahoma Indian Territory, the youngest of eight children of Cherokee descent. At an early age, he began to display certain talents that he had grown up with on the ranch.

According to the official website dedicated to protecting Rogers’ legacy, he “was working with cattle from an early age, learned to ride horses and lasso. He became so gifted with ropes that, in fact, he was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. One throw Three nooses. One around the horse’s neck, one around the rider, and a third flying under the horse, looping the four legs together.

His father was a wealthy rancher, and after his mother died when Rogers was 10, he went on to attend various public and private schools. Yet it was his arrival at the “low-hanging fruit” Kemper Military Academy that left the impression that the government and former cadets had been talking about for years.

“Will helped escort a herd of cattle from the family ranch in Oklahoma to the market in Kansas City, then to Booneville, to Kemper in 1896 at the age of 17…” The Kansas City Times reported on November 5 , 1954 edition. It was explained that his father was looking for a way to “tame” his son and the military school seemed appropriate.

Vivian Hansbrough wrote in a Nov. 20, 1977 article in the Kansas City Star that when Rogers arrived at Kemper Military School on Jan. 13, 1897, “everyone knew him.”

She added, “Officer at the time, McContz, reported that Rogers was all wearing a 10-gallon hat with a horsehair cord, a flannel shirt and a red bandana handkerchief, a brightly colored tank top, high heels, a red top with spurs. Boots, his trouser legs are on the boots.”

This unforgettable denim outfit was quickly replaced by a Kemper military-inspired uniform. The monotony of the school uniform failed to disguise his boisterous personality and resulted in a number of humorous moments, some of which were compiled into a booklet in 1935 by Kemper Principal Lt. Col. AM Hitch.

“Many students will remember Will as the school’s clown,” Hitch wrote. Known for his wit, he kept making his crowd, his dinner table, or the class uproar. “

Colonel Thomas A. Johnston, a Civil War veteran who served as superintendent during Rogers’ brief prep at Kemper, wasn’t always able to evoke the level of stoicism needed to be immune to Rogers’ hilarious antics.

Hitch wrote: “Colonel Johnston…had a habit of calling the boys in the study to stand up when he wanted to reprimand or address them. When he shouted ‘Mr Rogers, stand up’, Will would Would stand up. Stand up and say ‘yes, sir’ in such a way that he would bring down the house and even the colonel would have to turn his head.”

More than three decades after Rogers attended Kemper University, the Sedalia Democrat shared an article highlighting many interesting anecdotes from his student days, explaining that there is little predictable connection to his academic achievements .

“Judging by his grades, Will was a very volatile student,” the paper shared. “He was generally good in history, speech, political economy and letter writing, although historically he received 100 points one month and 68 points the next.”

The article continued: “In fact, Will is still himself as a student. If he doesn’t like studying, that’s okay. Several of his classmates say he’s just as happy with poor grades as he is with good grades.”

In 1898, the year after he arrived in Kemper, Rogers wrote to his three sisters asking them to borrow $10 each. The request was granted, and the 18-year-old future star snuck out of the military academy on a cold night. He would go on to work as a cowboy at several ranches before becoming a beloved entertainer.

In 1930, Kemper’s supervisor, Colonel Johnston, was visiting California when several of Kemper’s former students hosted a gala dinner for him. During the trip, Rogers, then a big-name star, showed Johnston the studio where he worked and introduced him: “Here’s my old teacher, boys. He and I couldn’t agree on how to run the school, so I quit my job. already.”

The beloved celebrity died in a plane crash in Alaska on August 15, 1935, at the age of 55. Less than three months later, Lieutenant Colonel Hitch, who became Superintendent of Kemper after Colonel Johnston, organized a memorial service for the former student who initially failed to show he was destined to excel.

For decades, Kemper has held an annual memorial service for Rogers, sharing the legacy of the class clown with generations of students. This tradition eventually came to an end, especially in 2002 when the school closed due to bankruptcy.

Recognizing the greatest difficulty in predicting Rogers’ future success, Lt. Col. Hitch wrote: “Interesting but cliché, Will became famous in many ways, hardly one of which was known during his school days – the most beloved of the world of cinema. Actor, most popular radio artist…”

He added: “If any of his school friends ever projected Will into the future, they probably thought he was a cowherd.”

Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the American Silver Star family.


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