Tad Jones, Executive Director, Will Rogers Memorial Museum, Claremore, OK.
Movie star. Radio personality. Newspaper columnist. Oklahoman.
Of all the destinations in Claremore, few have more history than that which honors the life of Oklahoma’s most famous son: the Will Rogers Memorial.
More than 19,000-square feet in size, the museum houses artifacts, memorabilia, pictures, manuscripts, and more pertaining to Rogers’ life, with a theater to show Rogers movies and documentaries.
“What we do is preserve and share the life and legacy of Will Rogers for future generations,” explained Will Rogers Memorial Executive Director Tad Jones.
As a native Rogers Countian, Jones is well-acquainted with the story of Will.
“I grew up in Claremore, went to school in Oologah – towns which were both important parts of Will’s early life – I’ve been around the memorial and the Birthplace Ranch (in Oologah) most of my life,” he said. “I was in the Oklahoma legislature for 12 years and became more familiar with the memorial, as it’s a state entity. When (former museum director) Steve (Gragert) retired in 2014, I was contacted to see if I might be interested in taking over for him, to which I said ‘Absolutely.’ I had a marketing background, and thought I could use that and my experience to really expand the memorial’s outreach, both in the community and beyond. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity.”
Will Rogers Memorial Museum is situated on a scenic landscape and features twelve galleries, a children’s museum, and library.
Even though Rogers rose to fame nearly 100 years ago, so many of his insights and outlooks remain as relevant today as they did during his lifetime.
“When people come to the museum, they have a good time, they have fun, and they come to understand Will’s joy for life, how he lived life to the fullest and treated everyone with respect,” he said. “He gave all for his fellow man and his family. He was just a great citizen role model for our community, our state and our nation.”
While the museum serves as a destination for travelers from around the world, many of them stopping to see the sights while traveling Route 66, Jones said he’s appreciative of the support that the museum receives from the community.
“We try to do a lot of activities for the community – to draw them in and experience Will, to bring people together in the spirit of Will,” he said. “We have Will’s Country Christmas, Will Rogers Days, Easter egg hunts, Family Days, lectures, etc. We are part of this community, sharing thoughts, ideas and friendships with Claremore residents and people within the local and nearby communities.”
The museum gift shop contains numerous books, clothing items, cards, kid’s toys, and other mementos about Will Rogers, Route 66, the community and the state – perfect for souvenirs, keepsakes or Christmas gifts.
For more information about the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, visit the memorial at 1720 W. Will Rogers Boulevard or visit them online at www.willrogers.com
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