Will Rogers Jr and Collier
In Tubac, where he found “the friendliest people in the world,” doors were opened through Shelby’s Bistro, the Tubac Historical Society, Tubac Villager, the town newspaper — and not in the least, Leroy Doyle, who “knew Will well”and manages a gallery in the town.
From the newspaper files he learned Will Jr. “promoted Tubac like you wouldn’t believe … Tubac Golf Resort and the Festival of Arts for some 35 years.”
Collier’s love for Tubac was well known there. She was the first postmistress for a short time, ran a restaurant, and, with husband, was instrumental in getting the first state park established.
She promoted the first ever what we now call “adopt a highway” crew. Kids would line up with her to clean the roadways — their way to get to use the Rogers’ pool.
The couple witnessed the town growing from 10 to 70 houses and 93 to 900 folks. Now there are 100 houses and about 1,500 people.
Will Jr. was gone about half the year and kept his California residency, drivers license and voter registration, Johnston said.
The Rogers’ family owned the Beverly Hills Citizen newspaper, which brother, Jim, ran while Will was in World War II. “It was interesting that while Jim endorsed Dewey for president, Will Jr. was a Roosevelt man,” laughed Johnston.
Will Jr. and his wife were involved in Indian affairs, education, healthn and future needs and called for more Indians in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “He had an understanding of Indian needs from his Oklahoma heritage and their work with Indians in the West,” the researcher said.
Johnston, tired of the cold in his native Iowa, and after living in other Arizona towns, settled with his wife, Paulett, in Prescott Valley for retirement.
When he left Claremore he had “pretty well wrapped up research” on Will Jr. He said he has a nine-page bibliography and probably four to five more ready.
His research in Claremore and Tubac has revealed a lot of things many people do not know about Will and Collier and their family, which will come out in the book. He’s ready now to get down to serious writing.
(Editor’s note: Will Rogers Jr. died July 9, 1993, and is buried in Tubac beside his wife. His parents, Will and Betty Rogers, are interred on the grounds of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore with their sons, Freddie and Jim; daughter, Mary; and daughter-in-law, Astrea. For more information visit the website www.willrogers.com or call 918-341-0719.)