Will Rogers Jr. dead at 81

TUBAC, Ariz. — Will Rogers Jr., son of the famed humorist, apparently killed himself July 10 by a gunshot to the head, the sheriff said.

Rogers, 81, had recently suffered strokes and heart problems and had undergone hip replacement surgery, a family spokesman said from Claremore, Okla.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said Rogers’ body was found by his car near Tubac, 140 miles southeast of Phoenix.

Rogers, who had retired in Tubac, had been dead about an hour, Estrada said. A note was found but the sheriff wouldn’t disclose its contents.

Rogers was born in New York on Oct. 20, 1911, while his famous father was starring in the Ziegfeld Follies. He was 24 when his father died in 1935 in an Alaskan air crash.

The younger Rogers, a Democrat, was elected to the House of Representatives from Southern California in 1942 but resigned during World War II and joined the Army, where he served as a tank commander. He was wounded and was decorated for heroism at the Battle of the Bulge.

After the war he won his party’s Senate nomination but lost the election. He then managed the Southern California presidential campaign of Harry Truman.

During the 1950s and ’60s, he starred in the movies “The Story of Will Rogers” and “The Boy from Oklahoma,” both biographies of his father.

He owned the weekly Beverly Hills Citizen from 1935 to 1953 and was host for the CBS-TV network “Good Morning Show” from New York in 1957-58.

Rogers, a Cherokee, was assistant to the U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1967-69. He and his late wife, Collier, adopted two sons, both Indian.

He also once headed the California State Park Commission. The Rogers family donated the Will Rogers State Park at Santa Monica to California and provided land for the Will Rogers Memorial at Claremore.

He was to be buried here near his wife at his request, said Joseph H. Carter, director of the Claremore memorial. His wife died in 1976.

Survivors include two sons, Clem and Carlos, both of Tucson; a brother, Jim Rogers of Bakersfield, and three grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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