Lone Pine lost a dear friend this past weekend, but his legacy will live on through the Beverly and Jim Rogers Lone Pine Film History Museum.
Jim Rogers, a business owner and philanthropist who helped Lone Pine’s dream of building a film history museum come true eight years ago, died Saturday evening at his Las Vegas home following a lengthy battle with cancer.
According to Bob Sigman, executive director of the museum, Rogers was a lifelong fan of classic Westerns and many of those films were shot in and around Lone Pine.
“Jim loved the heroes and heroines of classic Hollywood and so it was a natural thing for him to embrace the community and their efforts to celebrate Western heroes like Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Gene Autry and John Wayne, to name a few,” Sigman said in a statement from the Museum.
Rogers’ relationship with the community of Lone Pine began in the mid 1990s.
According to Jaque Hickman – who along with Lone Pine business owner Kerry Powell and other residents had been discussing the idea of creating an exhibit for film memorabilia – Rogers found his way to Lone Pine through his love of Western films. “He showed up, just on his own, to one of the early Film Festivals, and he became quite a fan of Lone Pine. He’d bring his friends, stay at a motel and watch Westerns and explore the Alabamas,” Hickman said.
Hickman explained that residents and visitors who had collected memorabilia from films shot in Lone Pine would often send her and Powell pieces of film history to display in their businesses. Originally, a group of residents had wanted to house the items in the Chamber of Commerce courtyard.
During a fundraiser to make that dream a reality, Rogers approached the core group and pledged $1 million to the construction of a museum, as long as the community could get behind the project and purchase the property. “He didn’t want to be just a guy with money in his pocket throwing it around,” Hickman said. “He wanted everyone to have a stake in it.”
Ultimately, the community group partnered with Inyo County, which bought a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power parcel for the project with funds raised by the community. Rogers came through on his promise and funded the construction of the museum.
“Beverly and Jim Rogers provided support and resources to help the community bring these dreams to reality,” Sigman said. “He funded administrative and legal support and when the community delivered on its promise of acquiring land Jim immediately put his resources in place to build the structure.”
Since the museum’s opening in 2006, Sigman said it has represented the fulfillment of the dreams of a community “and stands as a testimony to Jim Rogers’ generosity.”
Inyo County Film Commissioner Chris Langley said that Rogers’ passion for film went hand-in-hand with his passion for education. (In addition to owning KSNV-TV, Channel 3, in Las Vegas, Rogers served as the ninth chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education from 2005-09, after serving one year as interim chancellor.) “He said he really appreciated what the Westerns taught the kids these days. He was passionate about education. And he was really generous.”
Langley said the museum benefited from that generosity in a number of ways, including the $1 million he donated for construction, and the exhibits he provided. Those exhibits include everything from costumes and saddles that he purchased at auction, to vehicles Rogers housed in his personal collection.
“Thanks, Jim Rogers … your greatest tribute will remain the memories that you provide for countless visitors to the museum,” Sigman said. “Grandfathers sharing with their sons and grandsons memories of Saturday matinee B Westerns recognize their favorite cowboy’s poster, a watch from a cereal carton, a comic book, a bicycle, a badge or one of thousands of other collectibles marketed during their youth. It’s touching to see them reminisce. Their eyes become dreamy and old memories become clear as they tell of their long forgotten childhood.
“Thanks, Jim, for helping dreams come true and ensuring memories are forever. Happy Trails!”
A 1956 graduate of Las Vegas High School, Rogers earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a law degree, both from the University of Arizona. He also earned a master of law degree from the University of Southern California.
Rogers also collected more than 300 automobiles, many of which are antiques. All the cars are fully restored and most are functional. His collection celebrates American-made automobiles with a few foreign cars favored by U.S. collectors.
Rogers is survived by his wife, Beverly, and three children.