91 - Back-to-Back Titles

You may know that when you tune into Miss America tonight you’ll be seeing our Sigma Alpha/Miami Sister, Caroline Grace Williams competing as Miss Ohio, but you may not know two of our Sisters won the title of Miss America back-to-back in 1959 and 1960?

When Mary Ann Mobley became the first Mississippian to win Miss America in 1959, she would have never guessed that she would be directly followed by Lynda Lee Mead, fellow Mississippian and Sister in Chi Omega!

Not only were both women Miss Mississippi, but they were also both Sisters in Tau chapter at Ole Miss!

Mary Ann Mobley, Tau/Ole Miss, Miss America 1959 crowning her successor, Lynda Lee Mead, Tau/Ole Miss, Miss America 1960.

When Mary Ann was crowned in 1958, “The telecast increased from one and a half hours to two hours. Every state titleholder was assured of at least a $1,000 scholarship at their respective state pageants before arriving in Atlantic City for the Miss America finals. Miss America’s scholarship was raised to $10,000. The television audience increased to sixty million viewers as Mississippi’s Mary Ann Mobley became Miss America 1959, a first for her state,” according to missamerica.org.

After passing the torch to Lynda following her 1959 reign as Miss America, Mary Ann began her career in film and television. She signed a five-year contract with MGM, even acting with Elvis occasionally. She would go on to receive the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year Actress in 1965.

Mary Ann Mobley at the 1990 Chi Omega Convention in Palm Desert, California

She and her husband, Gary Collins, were active volunteers, traveling to Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Sudan for documentaries meant to bring light to homelessness and children in need.

She was a member of the National Board of Trustees for the March of Dimes, The National Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, and the National Council on Disability. She was an advocate for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and for Childhelp, and served on the National Advisory Board of The Eudora Welty Foundation.

She continued to serve her community selflessly until she joined the Omega chapter in 2014.

When Lynda was crowned in 1959, “Two significant events occurred for the first time in Miss America history. First, the Parade was televised live in its entirety. And second, every state in the Union was represented at the National Finals. Seventy-five million viewers watched Mississippi’s Mary Ann Mobley crown Mississippi’s Lynda Lee Mead, Miss America 1960. A quarter of a million dollars in scholarships were awarded on the local and state levels alone,” according to missamerica.org.

When interviewed last year by The Daily Mississippian about her experience winning Miss America, Lynda said, “It was an incredible shock to me. I went to the Miss America pageant knowing I couldn’t possibly win because Miss Mississippi had won the year before, so I was just trying to do the best I could and not embarrass my state.”

Lynda Lee Mead, visiting Chi Omegas in Miami, Florida, during her reign as Miss America in 1960.

Her results from the pageant were anything but embarrassing, making her hometown of Natchez, the state of Mississippi, and all of Chi Omega proud!

Lynda now lives in Memphis, Tennessee, and is President of Shea Design & French Country Imports located in Memphis.

A few years after the back-to-back titles for Chi Omega, S.H. and NPC Chairman Elizabeth Dyer served as a Miss America Judge! During this year, “In an attempt to make Miss America solely an all-state event, key city representation was discontinued. Arizona’s Vonda Van Dyke won the 1965 Miss America title and became the only Miss America to also be named Miss Congeniality. Scholarships awarded since 1945 surpass the $5 million mark,” according to missamerica.org.

Elizabeth Dyer, S.H. and NPC Chairman, (seated, far left) served as a Miss America judge in 1964.