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This Day in Beverly Hills History: Will Rogers, City’s First Honorary Mayor, Dies at 55

Will Rogers, for whom the Will Rogers Memorial Park is named, died 75 years ago today.

On Aug. 15, 1935, Will Rogers, who lived at 925 Beverly Drive during the 1920s, died in a plane crash in Alaska. He was 55 years old.

One of the best-known celebrities of his time, Rogers was a comedian, humorist, vaudeville performer, actor and columnist. He appeared in some 70 films, the majority of them silent ones, and wrote weekly columns for The New York Times that were syndicated in more than 500 U.S. newspapers.

Rogers, with wife Betty and their children, moved to Beverly Drive in 1920. His property was located kitty-corner from the Beverly Hills Hotel and covered three acres surrounded by a tall brick wall. The estate featured a pool, gymnasium, stable, riding ring and basement theater. But by 1929, Rogers put the home up for sale after termites were discovered. The property sold for $150,000 in 1930. The family moved to a newly built ranch in Pacific Palisades, which is now the location of the Will Rogers State Historic Park.

But before Rogers left Beverly Hills, he was named the town's "Honorary Mayor" in December 1926. A popular resident, Rogers was also a generous financier to Beverly Hills, having personally paid for a gymnasium and handball court for the city's police force. However, just weeks after his inauguration, the California Legislature ruled that Rogers could not serve because Beverly Hills was obligated to make the president of the board of trustees its mayor.  

Still, Rogers' connection to Beverly Hills lives on. In 1952, the city renamed Sunset Park as Will Rogers Memorial Park, which is located at 9650 Sunset Blvd.

Sources:
-Will Rogers: A Biography
by Ben Yagoda (University of Oklahoma Press 1993 

-American Original: A Life of Will Rogers by Ray Robinson (Oxford University Press 1996)

-Early Beverly Hills by Marc Wanamaker (Arcadia Publishing 2005)  

-http://www.imdb.com
-http://www.beverlyhills.org

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