Miss North Carolina 1933: First but forgotten?

As Jack noted in his comments on Margaret “Mug” Richardson, the archives yield scant information on early Miss North Carolinas.

According to contemporary news accounts, the first Miss North Carolina was crowned at Wrightsville Beach in 1933, and later she is pictured in a lineup of contestants in Atlantic City. But Leola Councilman of Sanford is inexplicably ignored in both Miss North Carolina and Miss America pageant histories.

I had hoped this badge and photo from the collection could be traced to an appearance by Miss Councilman at the 1933 national convention of the American Legion, held in conjunction with the Century of Progress world’s fair. Alas, no, says Donna Hay of Encino, Calif., who has done remarkably detailed research on the often chaotic 1933 competition. The Chicago exposition rolled out “lots of state beauty queens throughout its year of operation [that] had nothing to do with the Miss America pageant.”

So who is that off-brand Miss North Carolina riding regally past the crowds along Chicago’s waterfront? Her name is remembered even less than Leola Councilman’s.

For a lovingly amused look at North Carolina’s state pageant culture, see Frank Deford’s “There She Is: The Life and Times of Miss America” (1971).

9 thoughts on “Miss North Carolina 1933: First but forgotten?”

  1. Donna Hay adds this context for Leola Councilman’s exclusion:
    “The 1933 Pageant was such a fiasco that there was no pageant in 1934, and in 1935 when it was reinstated [officials] cut themselves off from previous pageants, trying desperately to avoid the bad publicity of the 1933 pageant. “The Miss America Organization had little data on any of the 1933 contestants — they were missing the names of three contestants, and didn’t even know who was first runner up and who was second! So it was not personal that their histories have mentioned little of Leola — they tried to mention little of any of the contestants!”

  2. If, as Donna Hay says, “…there was no pageant in 1934…” and Leola Councilman was selected Miss North Carolina in 1933, how and when was Margaret Richardson selected Miss North Carolina 1934?

  3. My mother, Edith McKinney, was selected Miss Spruce Pine (NC) in 1934. She attended the Miss North Carolina contest held in Greensboro, NC at the American Legion Convention. My mother shared a room with Esther Coleman Hambley from Salisbury, NC (Miss Salisbury). She was selected Miss North Carolina at this convention. I have an old newspaper photograph of her as Miss NC and a letter from her to my mother. According to her obituary (Esther-Coleman Hambley Wilson, which I Googled today, her father wouldn’t let her compete in the national contest. According to her obituary she married a doctor who became Director of the Red Cross and The American Medical Association, a brigadier general and both are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

  4. Nice to learn from Pat Turner Mitchel that your mother roomed with my cousin Ester Hambley. All your information is correct as confirmed by her daughter. She says Ester’s father would not let her enter National contest because at NC pageant during the swimsuit competition men in the audience had made cat calls at his daughter. It was a different kind of contest back then I suppose. They were a very refined and prominent family who were very protective of their daughter. Ester’s daughter still has her silver plated trophy she won as miss NC.

  5. Pat, I am the President of the Sisterhood of Miss North Carolina, Inc. I would like to get a scan of the photo you have. You can contact me through my website, davidclegg.com. Thanks!

  6. Pat, I also would like to get a scan of the photo and the letter you have from my cousin Ester. Can you send it to me, at my email address. Thank you.

  7. Hello Pat Turner Mitchell,
    I hope you are still checking in on this blog posts.
    I am a distant relative of Esther-Coleman Hambley in Salisbury, NC. I am working on a newspaper article about the 1934 Miss North Carolina beauty queen from Salisbury.
    May I get a copy of the newspaper article and picture as well as the letter to your mother.
    Please use my e-mail address stevearey47@gmail.com
    thanks so much!

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