Graham's Jeanne Robertson to pass down Miss N.C. crown
Achievement award, exhibit at museum will honor humorist

by Charity Apple, Times-News
RALEIGH - At first, humorist Jeanne Swanner Robertson thought it was a joke.  Robertson laughed, that jovial sound so many Alamance County audiences have come to love, until she realized the voice on the other end of the line was serious.

It was an official at the Miss North Carolina scholarship pageant, calling to inform Robertson she would receive the 2003 Woman of Achievement Award. And for one of the first times in her life, the former Miss North Carolina was speechless.

Jeanne with Miss Raleigh Andrea Cameron, an Elon student. 
Photo by Jimmy Allen

"I was blown away," Robertson said in a telephone interview from Raleigh.

But wait, there was more.

Since there is no reigning Miss North Carolina due to the court battle involving 2002 winner Rebekah Revels and Misty Clymer, Robertson was asked to present the crown during the 66th annual scholarship pageant, to be held Saturday at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. The 59-year-old Robertson, who won the title 40 years ago, is excited about the chance to crown Miss North Carolina 2003.

"I can't help but see all of the humor in this. I've been dieting," she said with a laugh. "And I've put Vaseline on my teeth. If I could only remember where I put them."

Robertson is a Graham native and winner of Miss Congeniality for the 1963 Miss America pageant. During that pageant, more than 300 people from Alamance County (mostly Graham) went to the competition.

Like many former contestants, she was saddened by the bad publicity surrounding the 2002 pageant. Revels relinquished the 2002 crown following a topless photo scandal, and Clymer represented the state during the Miss America pageant.

"The pageant was hurt by it," she said. "Just like Sammy Sosa and baseball has been hurt by the corked bat incident. But they won't cancel baseball because of it and thankfully, they won't cancel the pageant. There's too many people doing things the right way."

The contestants, mostly college students, average a 3.85 grade point average.   For young women like Andrea Cameron, a sophomore at Elon University and a pageant contestant who is Miss Raleigh, Robertson said this provides an "excellent chance to showcase talent and win scholarship monies." Cameron, a music theater major, and Robertson met for the first time Wednesday.

And for girls like her, Robertson shares this story.  "During my reign as Miss North Carolina, I was able to make more than 500 public appearances," she said. "All at the age of 19. You can't buy that kind of experience."

The people of Graham realize what a gem Robertson is, and they're sharing her with the public during an exhibit at the Graham Historical Museum titled "Behind Her All The Way - Miss N.C." set to open July 13, the 40th anniversary of Robertson's win.

This year's pageant is recognizing all of the "good things" Robertson has done in the past 40 years by honoring Graham, her hometown. The pageant program has two pages of photos documenting Robertson's win. And the 27 contestants will be donating children's books to the Graham Public Library, as part of their community service projects, in Robertson's honor.

During the past two days Robertson and a number of county library employees have been driving to Raleigh to collect the books from contestants and their friends and families.
"I am so thrilled about this," said Margaret Blanchard, director of Alamance County Public Libraries. "It's exciting to see Jeanne honored in this way."

Each contestant, Robertson said, has also been asked to describe why this book is meaningful to her. One contestant forgot to bring a children's book, but her adult selection was accepted, anyway.
"We'll take it," Robertson said. "We're just happy they're doing this."


Press Release   Miss NC Program Book    Photos of Jeanne receiving the award