BEHIND HER ALL THE WAY
GRAHAM'S MISS NORTH CAROLINA
The Jeanne Swanner Exhibit
Reprinted with permission from 2003
Miss NC Pageant Program Book
|When a member of the Graham Historical Society called former Miss Graham
and former Miss North Carolina Jeanne Swanner to ask if she would donate a
pageant gown to the local Museum, imagine her surprise at Jeanne's answer.
"You can have all of my pageant ‘stuff' if you think it would be of
Organizers of the museum definitely did think it would be of interest. So
much so that they quickly designated an entire room for whatever Jeanne
was willing to put on display. They wanted to honor the Graham native, and
now nationally-known professional speaker, for the renown she brought to
the town forty years ago.
|But Jeanne had another idea. She wanted to honor the town that supported
her during a whirlwind period in which she won the title of Miss North
Carolina, was named Miss Congeniality in the Miss America Pageant, and
traveled the state practically non-stop for twelve months. She wanted
young people in Graham today to know facts such as: more people from
Graham (over 300) followed their contestant to Atlantic City than any
delegation up to that point and maybe still.
Miss NC Jeanne Swanner, surrounded by her fellow contestants, after
winning the Miss Congeniality title by the largest margin in the
City limit signs placed in honor of Jeanne by the City of Graham-
unveiled on 'Jeanne Swanner Day,' July 27, 1963
|Thus, the permanent exhibit titled "Behind Her All the Way - Graham's Miss
North Carolina - The Jeanne Swanner Exhibit" will open in Graham on Sunday
afternoon, July 13, forty years to the day that Miss Graham was crowned
Miss North Carolina. It will be a tribute to what a small town in North
Carolina did for one of its own.
In that first conversation, Jeanne perhaps should have added, "If you have
room for it." A confessed hoarder, Jeanne's attic was full of boxes upon
boxes of memorabilia. She had never organized it. She has now, and her
penchant for saving is Graham and the pageant world's gain.
|The exhibit will be Mecca for pageant buffs and those who remember the
years when North Carolina held the largest state pageant in the nation
(eighty-four preliminaries Jeanne's year and that number increased the
next several pageants). It will be a treasure trove for those who remember
an era when preliminaries were covered extensively by the media, the
Finals were broadcast on statewide television, and Miss North Carolina's
name was a household word within the state.
Miss North Carolina on stage playing the
ukulele in talent competition in Atlantic city.
'Captain' Jeanne opening the 1964 Miss NC Pageant in Raleigh.
|The usual expected items will be on display, i.e., gowns, trophies,
program books and yes, Jeanne's ukulele from talent competition. But the
exhibit will also include chronicles of one Miss North Carolina's year.
And what a year it was. By the time the dust had settled and Jeanne had
crowned her successor, she had made more than 500 public appearances. Her
6'2" height and quick wit, combined with her ability to entertain
audiences, led her to be the busiest and an extremely popular Miss North
|Forty years later, Jeanne Swanner Robertson has been awarded every honor
in professional speaking. A humorist, she is at the top of her field and
is known nationwide by meeting planners and audiences. Ask her how she
entered such a fascinating world and she is always quick to credit the
positive experiences and numerous speaking opportunities she had as Miss
6'2" Jeanne stoops to receive crown from
retiring Miss North Carolina Janice Barron
||The town of Graham now salutes Jeanne Swanner Robertson. Jeanne salutes
the town of Graham. And the Miss North Carolina Organization salutes all
concerned for shining a positive and lasting light on the Miss North