The Will Rogers Humanitarian Award is presented annually by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists to a writer whose work has positively affected readers’ lives and produced tangible humanitarian benefits.
Any regularly published newspaper columnist, investigative reporter, opinion journalist or feature writer who is not a previous winner is eligible. Writers may not nominate themselves — they must come from editors or community leaders.
Support for this program is provided by the Will Rogers Writers Foundation and the Will Rogers Memorial Museums.
Will Rogers — American cowboy philosopher-humorist. Born Nov. 4, 1879, Oologah, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), died Aug. 15, 1935, Point Barrow, Alaska, in plane crash with pioneer aviator Wiley Post. Star of stage, screen and radio; goodwill ambassador; aviation enthusiast; book author; newspaper columnist; and humanitarian.
Will Rogers had a remarkable career. He is best known for his timeless wit and wisdom. Among the quips he said and wrote:
Everybody is ignorant. Only on different subjects.
The country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it.
The truth can hurt you worse in an election than about anything that could happen to you.
We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.
It’s great to be great, but it’s greater to be human.
All I know is what I read in the papers.
Rogers wrote more than 4,000 columns, syndicated in 600 newspapers, in addition to six books.
He also was a great humanitarian, helping many worthwhile causes and giving much of his fortune to charities. He used his public forum to raise millions of dollars for victims of floods in the South, drought in the Southwest and earthquakes in Latin America. Leading a Red Cross national relief tour in the Depression winter of 1931, he stirred communities and citizens to action.
Will Rogers practiced civic journalism long before it became a familiar term – aptly described by the Pew Center as “both a philosophy and a set of values … at its heart is a belief that journalism has an obligation to public life – an obligation that goes beyond just telling the news or unloading lots of facts.”
That belief inspired the establishment of the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award in 1999 by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. This annual award recognizes a columnist whose work has positively affected readers’ lives and produced tangible benefits for the community served by the columnist’s newspaper It is based on columns that show results.
The award is a handsome replica of the statue of Will Rogers in the U.S. Capitol. A $500 stipend also is awarded the winner to help defray costs of attending the annual conference.
Past winners include the late best-selling author Jeffrey Zaslow, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal; Dave Lieber, “Watchdog” columnist for The Dallas Morning News; Canadian columnist Lindor Reynolds; Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press; and the 2012 winner, Mike Masterson of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, cited for his record of “compassionate journalism” fighting against injustice as an investigative reporter and columnist. A complete list of past winners may be found at Will Rogers Humanitarians.