Miss N.C. of 63 returns to speak again
By AL CARSON, Editor
The Oxford Public Ledger, January 2007

My wife is 6-foot-2 and grew up in Graham.  So imagine my surprise when I showed up at the Creedmoor Centennial Celebration about a year ago and the guest speaker was a 6-foot-2-inch woman from Graham.

My wife is named Betsy, while the speaker was Jeanne Robertson.

Those of you who share my space-time-continuum - we call ourselves children of the '60s - probably remember Jeanne Robertson as Jeanne Swanner, Miss North Carolina in 1963.

At the time when Jeanne was wearing the Miss North Carolina crown and winning Miss Congeniality at the Miss America Pageant, she was also a mentor and friend to my wife, who was a sophomore basketball player at Graham High School, following in the footsteps of Miss Swanner. They were quite the tall twosome and made headlines in local papers.

When I was starting out as a sportswriter in Durham in the '70s, I remember interviewing a tall, attractive female coach who had me feeling, well, intimidated. I always wanted to be 6-2, but never quite attained that number. I was a half-inch short as a youngster and today have shrunk a little. Or maybe I just don't stick out my chest quite as much and stretch myself upward when I am measured for my annual physical. I have become more concerned with girth than height in my old age.

At any rate, I digress. As a young 'un I was intimidated when standing toe-to-toe with a woman and LOOKING UP into her eyes. It just didn't feel right. (I obviously got over that phobia, as Betsy and I have been married nine years in April. Maybe it was a matter of being nose-to-nose, instead of toe-to-toe, that cured me.)

These days, as a professional speaker with a tall sense of humor, Robertson makes a good living off her height. She is not only 6-2, she prances around in three-inch heels so she is really WAY UP THERE. And she plays it to the hilt.

I could sympathize with Judge Dan Finch, who gave a flamboyant and glowing introduction to Robertson at the Centennial program only to have her quip as she took the mike: "He's a cute l'il feller, isn't he? I want to take him home in my purse."   Now, Finch isn't particularly short and his stage presence is huge, but Robertson managed to overshadow him in a heartbeat. She grabbed the mike, looked the audience in the eye and grabbed them by the scruff of the neck and never let go for 20 minutes or so.

Robertson made fun of the Miss "Amurca" Pageant, herself, her height (she was 6-2 at 13 and her mother promised her the boys would grow), folks' reactions to her height, her husband's left-brain mentality and showed how laughter can bring people together.

"I'm here today to remind Creedmoor, as a community, if you want to really accept your differences and celebrate the things you have in common, don't forget every single day to keep your sense of humor," she said.

Robertson spoke with a Southern drawl to make Andy Griffith or Jerry Clower proud and had the audience hanging on every word and laughing at every other word. By the end they rose en masse to show their thanks with applause.

Yes, Jeanne Robertson is not from Granville County, but she is from small-town America and even though she travels with jet-setters these days, she keeps her feet planted firmly on the ground.

I approached Robertson after her talk and introduced myself. She was taller than ever in her heels, but I was not intimidated this time. She was imminently approachable, as down-home friendly in person as she was on stage.

Robertson recalled my wife immediately, saying, "Oh, you mean Little Bet. How is Little Bet?"  Little Bet is fine thank you.  And so are you, Miss Congeniality.

As for folks who missed that show last year, they will get a chance to hear Robertson at the Granville County Chamber of Commerce Banquet on Monday night at VGCCs Civic Center. Im looking forward to it and I think you will find it quite an evening.   JeanneRobertson.com