On the runway again

Alamance News
By Brittiny Dunlap, Staff Writer
June 19, 2003


Jeanne Swanner Robertson, Miss North Carolina 1963, will be in the limelight again this weekend as she accepts the 2003 Woman of Achievement award at the state's pageant.  Now a nationally-recognized humorist, who won the "Miss Congeniality" designation in the 1963 Miss America Pageant, she will also crown the new Miss North Carolina during Saturday's festivities.

In 1963, Jeanne Swanner strolled down the runway of the Miss North Carolina pageant and brought the crown home to Graham.  Now, 40 years later, she returns to the same stage to receive the 2003 Woman of Achievement award.

The North Carolina Pageant Organization will present Jeanne Swanner Robertson with the award on Saturday from the stage of Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh at this year's Miss North Carolina state pageant.

Robertson will also be crowning the winner of this year's Miss North Carolina pageant.  Contest judges designated Robertson to fulfill the duties due to the conflict over who is the reigning Miss North Carolina.

In honor of her achievement, the Graham Public Library Children's Division will receive children's books given in Robertson's name by the 2003 contestants of the Miss North Carolina Pageant and by the 2003 Carolina Princesses.  Robertson will also be honored July 13 by the Graham Historical Society with an exhibit in the town museum dedicated to her year as Miss North Carolina.

At 6'2", Robertson was the tallest contestant to compete in the Miss America Pageant and was named Miss Congeniality.  "I begged them to let me shoot hook shots for the talent part of the Miss America contest," Robertson said in a USA Today interview.  "But they wouldn't let me.  Later I realized shy.  Couldn't you just see the headlines if I was chosen: ‘Hooker Wins!'"


July 27, 1963 was Jeanne Swanner Day in Graham and Mayor Myron Rhyne read a proclamation on the Court House steps as Swanner, who had been crowned Miss North Carolina, looked on.  Swanner competed in the
Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, and was chosen as Miss Congeniality.

During her reign and Miss North Carolina, Robertson toured all over North Carolina speaking on a daily basis at pageants, civic clubs and corporation.  When her reign was over, people were still calling Robertson and asking her to speak.

Robertson grew up in Graham with her mother and father.  Her father chaired the local school board and later owned Green's Fuel Gas Company.  By the age of 13, Robertson had already reached her 6'2" stature.  She went on to play basketball at Graham High School averaging 30 points a game her junior and senior years.

Robertson went on to receive a degree at Auburn University and taught physical education in high school and college for nine years.  However, during those nine years requests for her to speak continued.  In 1976, Robertson stopped teaching and entered the field of professional speaking.

Robertson's speeches specialize in humor based on her life experiences.  She has spoken to companies across the country.

Among Robertson's highest honors are: the Golden Gavel Award, Auburn's Woman Entrepreneur of the year 2000, North Carolinian of the Year from the North Carolina Press Association (2001) and she was the first woman to receive the Cavett Award, the most prestigious award in her profession. 

In addition to speaking, Robertson has tried her hand at writing and published three books: Humor: The Magic of Genie, Mayberry Humor Across the USA, and Don't Let the Funny Stuff Get Away.

When not traveling 10 months out of the year, Robertson lives in Burlington with her husband Jerry.  They have one son, Beaver, who is married to Dayna and two grandsons. 

Reprinted with permission from The Alamance News