Leonard Frank Slye, famous as Roy Rogers (November 5, 1911 - July 6, 1998), was a singing cowboy actor, massively famous in his time. He and his second wife Dale Evans and his horse Trigger were featured in countless TV shows and movies along with his sidekick Pat Brady (who drove a jeep called Nellybelle) and the crotchety bushwhacker Gabby Hayes. Rogers was known as the "King of the Cowboys". For many Americans (and non-Americans) he was the embodiment of the all-American hero.
Rogers was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, while his family lived on a house boat docked on the Ohio River. They later moved the houseboat up the river to Portsmouth, Ohio. The house boat was destroyed in the flood of 1913 and the Slye family moved to Lucasville just north of Portsmouth where Leonard spent his boyhood. His first success was as a radio singer with the popular western cowboy music group, the Sons of the Pioneers, but his greatest renown came in western films. From his first film appearance in 1935, he worked steadily in film and TV, becoming a major box office attraction and an idol for many children through his films and television show. Most of his films were in color in an era when almost all other B-movies were black and white. There were Roy Rogers action figures, cowboy adventure novels and a variety of marketing successes.
The Sons of the Pioneers continued their popularity through the 1950s. Although Rogers was no longer a member, they often appeared as Rogers' backup group in films and on TV.
Rogers and his first wife, Arline (Wilkins) had three children: an adopted daughter, Cheryl, and two birth children, Linda Lou and Roy Jr. Arline died of an embolism while giving birth to Roy Jr. in 1946. A year later Roy married his co-star Dale Evans. Dale and Roy had a daughter, Robin Elizabeth, who died of complications of Down Syndrome at age two. Evans wrote about losing their daughter in her book Angel Unawares.
Rogers and Evans were also well known as advocates for adoption and as founders and operators of children's charities. They adopted several children. Both were outspoken Christians. In Apple Valley, California, where they made their home, numerous streets and highways as well as civic buildings have been named after them in recognition of their efforts on behalf of homeless and handicapped children.
Roy and Dale often sang duets. They are best remembered for their signoff duet from their 1950s TV show, "Happy trails to you, until we meet again...."
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Roy Rogers has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1752 Vine Street, a second star at 1733 Vine Street for his contribution to radio, and a third star at 1620 Vine Street for his contribution to the television industry. In 1976, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
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