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Jim Rogers; Son of Famed Humorist

From a Times Staff Writer

Jim Rogers, a Bakersfield horse rancher who was the last surviving child of Western humorist Will Rogers, has died.

The 84-year-old Rogers died of cancer at his home Friday. Funeral arrangements were incomplete but he will be interred in the family tomb on the Will Rogers Museum grounds in Claremore, Okla.

Named for his maternal grandfather, James Blake “Jim” Rogers was the third child of Betty and Will Rogers. Born in New York City, he spent most of his youth in Southern California after his father, a popular vaudeville and Ziegfeld Follies performer, signed a movie contract and moved West.

Will Rogers was on his way to becoming one of the world’s best-known celebrities, appearing in silent movies--his son Jim appeared in three of them--on radio and writing a newspaper column that was syndicated in hundreds of papers around the country.

By the late 1920s, Will Rogers purchased 159 acres of raw land in Pacfic Palisades, where he began a recreational ranch that was expanded and improved into a permanent residence.

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After graduating from the private Webb School, Jim Rogers attended Pomona College, but left in 1935, the same year his father and noted pilot Wiley Post were killed in a plane crash in Alaska.

With his brother Will Rogers Jr., Rogers ran the family-owned newspaper, the Beverly Hills Citizen. During World War II, Rogers was a writer / correspondent in the Marine Corps.

After the war, Rogers found work in films as a cowboy in three Hopalong Cassidy movies, made Army training films with Rod Cameron, and co-starred with Noah Beery Jr. in three comedies.

As the family representative on the Will Rogers Memorial Commission in Oklahoma, Rogers oversaw a $6-million effort to renovate the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, Okla., the Oologah, Okla., birthplace ranch. He also worked closely with the staff at the Will Rogers Historic Park in Pacific Palisades, which is now a park run by the state.

In addition to Judith Braun, his second wife, Rogers is survived by his sons James Rogers of Nashville and Charles Edward Rogers of Cave Creek, Ariz., and a daughter, Astrea Elizabeth Rogers, of Chowchilla, Calif.

His brother Will Rogers Jr. died in 1993; his sister, Mary, died in 1989 and his brother Fred died in 1920.

On occasion, Jim Rogers could offer a barbed remark reminiscent of his famous father. An avid polo player for most of his life, Rogers accepted an award from Texas-based Polo magazine on behalf of his father some years ago. At the time, the publication was fighting a court action from the Ralph Lauren organization over the use of the name Polo.

When Rogers accepted the award, he recalled the days when he and his father used to play polo with fellow enthusiasts such as Clark Gable and Leo Carrillo. “I really tried to think,” Rogers said, “But I can never remember playing polo or seeing a guy on the polo field named Ralph Lauren.”


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