“He might have been small for those farm chores at Duck Run,” recalled Roy’s pop with a chuckle, “but he was just as ornery as the mules.”
Roy Rogers, known as “The King of the Cowboys,” was the most popular Western star of his era. He was born as Leonard Franklin Slye on November 5, 1911 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and passed away on July 6, 1998.
At twelve years old, Roy won a 4-H competition at the Scioto County Fair with his pet pig, Evangeline, which took him to the state capital in Columbus. “That was the first time I had ever been ten miles off the farm. I had never even seen an elevator before. I spent the whole first day just riding up and down the elevator in the Old Neil House Hotel.”
Roy came west with his family during the Great Depression and was working picking peaches in Southern California. He began singing on the radio with the Sons of the Pioneers, and then on the road where he met Arline Wilkins who won a contest baking Roy’s favorite lemon pie. They married and started a family. In child birth with “Dusty,” Roy’s only natural son, Arline passed away before coming home from the hospital.
When he heard Republic Pictures was looking for a singing cowboy, he literally fell in the stage door and in 1937, signed his contract and the rest was history for The King of the Cowboys for 88 films.
In 1944, Dale Evans, in her first picture with Roy, “The Cowboy and the Senorita” Roy rides up on Trigger, rescues Dale out of the river, dripping wet. They remained married for the rest of their lives, raised Dale’s son, Roy’s three and adopted several more of different ethnicities. Their only natural daughter together, Robin was born with Downs Syndrome and lived only a few short years. And despite the incredible public life Roy led, it was not without challenges. The loss of other of their children early in their lives caused Roy to lose faith but Dale, in her strength, guided Roy through the most difficult things they faced together. They are forever indelible in American cultural history, a shining example for families everywhere.
For more on the life of Roy Rogers, you can read:
The Roy Rogers Book – reference trivia scrapbook by David Rothel
The Touch of Roy and Dale by Tricia Spencer (A collection of short stories by many fans whose lives were touched by Roy and Dale)
King of the Cowboys Queen of the West by Raymond E. White
Growing up with Roy and Dale by Roy Rogers, Jr. with Karen Ann Wojahn (The dedication in this book reads, “To the loving memory of Robin, Sandy, and Debbie, who taught me compassion; To Tom, Cheryl, Linda, Marion and Dodie, who rounded out my life; To Mom and Dad who taught me to know and love God, showed me right from wrong, and encouraged me to be myself.”
Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys by Georgia Morris and Mark Pollard (This hard cover collector’s edition is loaded with the most amazing photographs (if you can find one, it’s a keeper)
(There are countless other published books under copyright on the lives of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans)