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Friends, Classmates Remember Mary Ann Mobley Collins

From The Ole Miss yearbook
From The Ole Miss yearbook

Mary Ann Mobley Collins was the first Mississippian crowned Miss America, became the envy of every woman alive clinging to Elvis Presley in movies, and could be seen all over television, but before all of that, she was an Ole Miss Rebel.
141209-mary-ann-mobley-1906-full_ad00dfc5351c152a4abd5dbf4a67fa21A native of Brandon, she was the university’s first Carrier Scholar and later became the first woman voted into the Alumni Hall of Fame. While at Ole Miss, she was a majorette and a member of Chi Omega Sorority. After graduating in 1958, she went on to be crowned Miss America the following year.
After her reign ended, she went on become one of the most successful Miss Americas on Broadway, film and television. She co-starred in two Elvis Presley movies, “Girl Happy” and “Harum Scarum,” and appeared on dozens of popular television series from the 1960s to the ’90s, including “Perry Mason,” “The Love Boat,” “Love, American Style,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Designing Women.”
She also built a respected career as a documentary filmmaker, visiting Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Sudan to produce films on the plight of homeless and starving children. She was actively involved in raising money and awareness for both the March of Dimes and the United Cerebral Palsy Association.
Former classmate Gerald Walton remembers Mary Ann as a warm, friendly girl who never let her incredible beauty change her personality.
Mary_Ann_Mobley,_Brandon._(Miss_Miss._'58,)_(Miss_America,_'58-'59,)_(Photo_at_WLBT).“She was a down-to-earth person who never let any of her obvious beauty and overall attractiveness go to her head,” Walton said. “When I saw her in the library or at her sorority house, she never gave any appearance of thinking that she was a Miss America type.”
Tom Brown was knew Mary Ann before her arrival in Oxford when she was a majorette and he was in the band at Brandon High School. When Sept. 6, 1958, rolled around, Brown was working as a sports reporter for the Jackson State Times and learned of her big win early, and promptly called everyone he knew so they could watch the hometown girl be crowned.
Classmate Ed Meek recalled how proud the people of Oxford, Brandon and all of Mississippi were for the beautiful, poised, intelligent and welcoming Mary Ann back home as the first Miss Mississippi to wear the big crown.
“The state of Mississippi, the university and Oxford were so excited to have a Miss America, and when Lynda Mead Shay was crowned Miss America a year later, Mississippi became know as the ‘Home of Miss Americas.'”
During Dan Jordan’s freshman year, Mary Ann was an assistant for Dean Malcolm Guess’ famous Sunday School class at Oxford-University Methodist Church.
141209-mary-ann-mobley-1905_e0e057430a1cedf4e683d826060895aa“She was truly special — smart and beautiful, with a wonderful personality,” Jordan said.
Oxford resident and Miss America CEO Sam Haskell has described his 40 year friendship with Mary Ann as one that he truly cherishes.
“When I was a little boy growing up in Mississippi, there were two Mississippi stars who I idolized — one was Elvis Presley and the other was Mississippi’s first Miss America Mary Ann Mobley,” Haskell said in a statement. “She was at the hospital when my children were born. She performed in many of my charitable concerts to raise money in Mississippi for needed educational funds as well as Hurricane Katrina victims.
“We shared a love for our alma mater Ole Miss, and we shared many mutual friends in our beloved home state of Mississippi. She challenged me, she loved me, and she made me laugh. I shall miss her!”
Visitation is 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at Parkway Funeral Home in Ridgeland, and funeral services are 1 p.m. Monday at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson.
Amelia Camurati is editor-in-chief of HottyToddy.com and can be reached at amelia.camurati@hottytoddy.com.

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