Mississippi’s First Miss America Dies After Battle with Breast Cancer

In 1959, 20-year-old Mary Ann Mobley became Mississippi’s first Miss America. But the pageant crown was only the beginning of her life’s accomplishments. The Miss America organization calls her “one of the most popular and most successful Miss Americas.” Mobley died Tuesday at her home in Beverly Hills after a battle with breast cancer. She was 77.

After winning Miss America, Mobley went on to perform on Broadway in “Nowhere to Go But Up,” as well as theatrical productions of Guys and Dolls and The King and I. She then began acting in film and television, including two movies with Elvis Presley, Girl Happy and Harum Scarum.

In 1965, she won the New Star of the Year award at the Golden Globes alongside Mia Farrow. Later on, she made documentaries in Cambodia, Ethiopia, and Somalia, focusing on children in the face of war.

At the end of her Miss America bio, they throw in a curve ball: “Not to be overlooked is Mobley’s status as a daredevil and performer of death-defying circus acts.” For five years, she performed high-wire and trapeze acts in the annual “Circus of the Stars.”

A woman of many talents, Mobley was good friends with fellow Mississippian William Faulkner as well as Sam Haskell, CEO of the Miss America Organization, who said in a statement, “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!”

Mobley's brilliance is evident when she answers a softball question at the Miss America pageant. The host asked her to name her favorite date conversation starter, and Mobley replied, good-naturedly: "I’ve read different articles that tell you how to get along with the opposite sex. And the first thing they say is ‘get him to talk about himself.’" The rest of her answer got a big laugh from the pageant audience, too. Watch for yourself below, then see Mobley's many talents in action by clicking through the gallery above. 


Tags: Miss America