Graham's Beauty queen celebrates her 40th anniversary
by boosting the Graham Public Library

By Karen Carrouth, City-County Magazine

Itís not about the glory. Although Jeanne Swanner Robertson certainly has earned plenty of that. A 6í2Ē beauty queen from Alamance County who wound up as Miss Congeniality in the Miss America pageant is quite a feat.


Jackson and Justin Hamsness, Jeanne's great grand nephews, share a love of reading.

Itís not about the stuff. Although she has accumulated so much memorabilia that it has occupied nearly every room of her house since she began to organize it a few months ago. From her evening gowns hand stitched by Mary Harden and Nina Holladay to her ukulele played for the talent competition, Jeanne has a story or two to tell.

Itís not about the pageant. Although the Miss North Carolina pageant has its share of controversy in recent months, Jeanne made more than 500 public appearances in 1963-64 as Miss North Carolina. That in turn launched her into becoming a nationally known humorist who has been awarded every honor in professional speaking.

Itís about a nearly 60-year-old women who loves her hometown so much that she turns the attention showered on her as a beloved Miss North Carolina back on Graham with a wonderful interactive permanent exhibit at the Graham Historical Museum. Itís about Jeanne Swanner Robertson receiving the prestigious Woman of Achievement Award by this yearís Miss North Carolina Pageant. And itís about pageant participants in this yearís state competition buying childrenís books for the Graham Public Library to honor Jeanne.

The exhibit, which is located in the former Fireside Gallery on W. Elm Street in Graham, will officially open July 13. That is40 years to the day Miss Graham was crowned Miss North Carolina. Entitled ďBehind Her All The Way: Grahamís Miss North CarolinaĒ, there will be large display boards depicting the local beauty queen and all the wonderful stories associated with her claim to fame.

One of the stories involves a good luck charm that exploded in the national press into a marriage proposal. It seems that Jeanne was teaching swim lessons at the Graham Pool the summer after she was crowned Miss Graham. One of the young men at the pool gave her a ring and told her that he would marry her some day. (He was 11 at the time.) That ring was Jeanneís good luck charm and of course, the young man, David Harrington (now a neighbor), shared the limelight as reporters called for his comments.

In addition to the historical angle, the Graham Public Library will also be a beneficiary of Jeanneís awards. Each year, contestants in the Miss North Carolina Pageant perform a community service project in honor of Miss North Carolina. Pageant officials this year have allowed Jeanne to choose the community project for two reasons: for 40 years, she has shone a positive light on the Miss North Carolina pageant and in honor of the town of Grahamís pageant exhibit. A literacy advocate, Jeanne in turn asked that the pageant contestants to give childrenís books to the Graham Public Library.

Itís a win-win-win situation for the Miss North Carolina Pageant, the town of Graham and the Graham Public Library. Not to mention a major housecleaning at the Robertson household.
And donít ask Jeanne about her crown. Youíll get the story about Chuck in Hong KongÖ


Six buses of Jeanne supporters following her to the Miss America pageant.

Re-print with permission: City-County Magazine - Article by Karen Carrouth

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