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Historically Speaking: Will Rogers’ connection to Roswell

Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives The caption reads, "Regimental Formation, New Mexico Military Institute, Roswell, New Mexico" — date unknown.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily Record

For those of you who may not know, Will Rogers, the famous humorist, had strong ties to Roswell and to the New Mexico Military Institute during his time. His son went to the New Mexico Military Institute and was a star player on the polo team. Will himself also played a few games with or at the Institute. Following are some articles about Will and his son that show their ties and times at New Mexico Military Institute.

Roswell Daily Record

May 11, 1931

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”Will Rogers, world famous humorist, lecturer and entertainer, played polo today as a member of the officers team against the cadets of the New Mexico Military Institute, after visiting the R.H. Crosby ranch in company with Harold and Bob Crosby.

“Mr. and Mrs. Will Rogers arrived in Roswell last night from Carlsbad where they visited the Carlsbad Caverns yesterday. They were in their own car, Mr. Rogers doing the driving.

“Clad in a blue shirt and cowboy boots and mounted on the best polo ponies available, the famous humorist demonstrated beyond question his ability as a polo player on the Institute field this morning. However, the speed of the cadets was too much for the instructors and Mr. Rogers and it happened that he was on the losing side of the game.

Predicting that more than 50,000,000 persons would visit the Carlsbad Caverns eventually, Mr. Rogers this morning described the Caverns as one of the greatest spectacles he has ever seen.

“The famous humorist and his wife this morning saw the cadets of the New Mexico Military Institute pass in review on dress parade, a performance planned for the visitors and delegates to the Carlsbad Cavern-Petrified Forest-Grand Canyon Highway association here today.

“Immediately after the parade Mr. Rogers mounted one of the fine polo ponies of Colonel E.A. Keyes and was one of the hardest riders and most enthusiastic players on the field.

“Mr. and Mrs. Rogers left this afternoon for their home in California going by way of Carrizozo and Magdalena, a country he had never seen and one which he said he had long desired to travel over.

“They were registered at the Nickson Hotel last night as Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Rogers, of Santa Monica, California. The ‘P.’ was included in the name with the intention of attracting as little attention as possible.

“Several hundred persons saw Mr. Rogers in action on the polo field here today and all described him as a most enthusiastic and finished polo player. The gay lights of Beverly Hills and the love of the airplane, evidently has not lessened the famous humorist’s ability to sit on a New Mexico polo pony, especially when the man formerly from Claremore, Oklahoma and the wide spaces of Texas hears the call again of those far away days on the range and the longhorn.

“Mr. and Mrs. Will Rogers today met again Mr. and Mrs. R.H. Crosby who they knew in the early days in Oklahoma and their meeting here was an occasion to recall many and varied pleasant memories.

“Mr. Rogers, clad in his usual slouch hat, thoroughly enjoyed his polo game this morning and met many persons during the intervals between periods and after the contest.

“Mr. and Mrs. Rogers were especially invited to attend the banquet tonight which will bring to a close the fourth annual convention of the Carlsbad Caverns-Petrified Forest-Grand Canyon Highway Association, but they were forced to decline because of the necessity of continuing on their way.

“Mr. Rogers who has been a polo enthusiast for many years and is a member of a number of leading polo teams in Southern California, he is going from here to Tucson, Arizona where he will stage an entertainment for the benefit of the University of Arizona polo team so that this team may enter the intercollegiate tournament in the east.

“The University of Arizona polo team is composed of former New Mexico Military Institute players. This team playing under the Institute colors won the invitational polo tournament in Colorado Springs, Colorado last summer and since has been establishing a great record in western polo circles.

“Mr. Rogers, although on the losing team in the polo game this morning, thoroughly enjoyed the game. Coming in at the end of the first period, his comment was:

“‘That’s a handy pony, but they outran me all the time.’

“Later in the game during a rest period it was suggested that an Institute second team might be used. To this the humorist replied:

“‘What do you mean, second team? How do you tell the difference, by numbers?’

“‘I am used to riding visitors,’ he said when it was suggested that his next mount would be a visiting horse.

“Following the polo game, Mr. Rogers who is also an aviation enthusiast, was taken to the Roswell airport. …”

Roswell Daily Record

Sept. 8, 1931


Jim B. Rogers, son of the one and only Will of Beverly Hills, California, registered in the high school department of the New Mexico Military Institute today. Rogers is 15 years of age and comes to the Institute as the direct result of a visit of Will Rogers to Roswell several months ago, it was said.


Mrs. Will Rogers, wife of the famous humorist, is registered at the Nickson hotel. Mrs. Rogers is here for the purpose of placing her son in the Military Institute.

Roswell Daily Record

Sept. 26, 1931


“Roswell, N.M., September 24 – It’s two days and two nights by rail. Flew in here in seven hours in Hal Roach’s (the movie comedy producer’s) private plane, Captain Dickson piloting.

“I shouldn’t say anything that would in any way be detrimental to the poor railroads for they are having a tough time enough sledding. The only thing ‘riding’ the RR is the government. If they would lay off and let ‘em run ‘em their own way maybe the public would come back.

“‘This is the prettiest little town in the west!’ (Roswell)


“Will Rogers”

Roswell Daily Record

Oct. 30, 1931


“Norman, Oklahoma, October 30 – (AP) – University of Oklahoma polo defeated New Mexico Military Institute, led by Jimmie Rodgers, son of the famous Will; 5 to 2, here yesterday.

“Young Rogers scored his team’s first goal in the second chukker on a 20-yard shot that tied the score.

“Captain J. Brac McKinley, Sooner No. 2 and a former Roswell player himself, scored three times. A Sooner added another goal with a kick.

“The New Mexico team will play Oklahoma Military Academy at Claremore, hometown of Rogers, Saturday.”


MAY 4, 1932


“Jimmy Rogers, who plays the number one position on the crack New Mexico Military Institute polo team, and son of the famous Will Rogers, humorist, actor and columnist, will teach polo this summer.

“Rogers, who has been schooled at the New Mexico Military Institute in the finer points of the mallet game by Colonel E. A. Keyes, has become so expert at the game of polo and his powers have received such wide notice that he has received several offers to teach polo.

“Rogers has enrolled in the Cowboy College at Circle Bar Ranch and will conduct polo classes there this summer. Circle Bar Ranch, owned by Homer Adams, is on the old Spanish Trail between Ozona and Fort Stockton, Texas.


May 30, 1932


“The Military Institute polo team won the polo game on Saturday on Rogers Field at Santa Monica with the Movies Two and Dudes Two. The scores by periods:

“First Period: Austin, Thompson.

“Second Period: Robert Montgomery, Will Rogers.

“Third Period: Thompson, Jimmie Rogers.

“Fourth Period: Pedley, Baker.


“Santa Monica, Calif. – (AP) – The Uplifters club of Santa Monica yesterday went down to defeat before the invading polo team of the New Mexico Military Institute of Roswell. The score was 19 – 9.

“Jimmie Rogers, son of Will Rogers, humorist-philosopher, led the scoring with six goals. Dick Waring, San Angelo, Texas, scored five goals and Tex Austin, son of the rodeo impresario, three. Tommy Thompson, Dallas, scored four goals and the other Institute goal resulted from a kick by the pony of Lionel Pedley of the Uplifters.

“Will Rogers, described the game to spectators through radio amplifiers and, as the game opened, referred to his son as ‘Mrs. Rogers boy.’ Later when the young player was going good he amended the description to ‘my boy.’”


“Beverly Hills California, May 20 – See a lot of pictures of Mrs. Vincent Astor and society women of New York taking up nickels on the street to aid the anti-Prohibition. Such antics as that is sure to win the small town and the farm women over. Yes sir, right over to the opposite side. I’ll bet there is more fool things done for publicity sake that defeat their own purpose than ever aided it. There is but one reason that Prohibition won’t be repealed. It’s because the wrong people want it repealed!


“Will Rogers”

Janice Dunnahoo of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at jdunna@hotmail.com.


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