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Former Miss America and actress Mary Ann Mobley dies

by Sandra Blodget - The Oregon Herald Wednesday December 10, 2014    10:23 AM

Mary Ann Mobley, who was the first Mississippian to be crowned Miss America in 1959 and who then turned into a successful film career, has died at 77. She had been fignting breast cancer.

She made a name for herself as an actress in Hollywood and made her TV debut on Burke's Law in 1963. She later appeared in theatrical productions of Guys and Dolls and the King and I and even shared billing with Elvis Presley in both Girl Happy and Harum Scarum.

Mobley was a member of the National Board of Trustees for the March of Dimes, The National Crohn's and Colitis Foundation and the National Council on Disability. She worked with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and for Childhelp, and she served on the National Advisory Board of The Eudora Welty Foundation. Thanks to her tireless volunteer efforts and her career in show business, Mobley became the first woman ever to be voted into the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame.

After serving her reign as Miss America 1959, Mobley embarked on a career in both film and television. She signed a five-year contract with MGM. She made her first five television appearances on Burke's Law from 1963-1965. She made two guest appearances on Perry Mason in 1964 and 1966. In the first episode she played title character and defendant Dianne Adler in "The Case of the Blonde Bonanza." In the latter episode she played murderer and title character Sharon Carmody in "The Case of the Misguided Model." Between 1969-1973 she made five appearances on Love, American Style, and eight appearances on Fantasy Island from 1978-1984.

She had a recurring role as Maggie McKinney Drummond on Diff'rent Strokes in the final season of the series, having taken over the role from Dixie Carter. (She would later guest star as Karen Delaporte, a snide head of a historical society who crossed swords with Dixie's character, Julia Sugarbaker, in Carter's later series, Designing Women)

She also made appearances on Match Game '76 as one of the celebrity panelists. She ended her television career in 1994 with an appearance on Hardball. She was Awarded the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year- Actress in 1965. She was active in many charitable causes and was awarded the Outstanding Young Woman of the Year Award in 1966 by Lady Bird Johnson.

And Mobley's charitable endeavors didn't begin and end with her crown. Instead she stayed active with many organizations, including March of Dimes and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She also served on the National Council on Disability.

A statement from the Miss America organization says Mobley "was most proud of The Mary Ann Mobley Pediatric Wing at the Rankin General Hospital in her hometown of Brandon.' Her home state shared the love.

In 2002, she was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and she became the first woman to be voted into the University of Mississippi Hall of Fame, according to a statement from her family. "The group included her friend from her years at Ole Miss, William Faulkner," the statement reads.

Mobley's passions extended beyond her home state and country. She worked as a filmmaker, according to the Warner Brothers release, spending years "documenting the young victims of war and starvation in places like Cambodia, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Sudan."

Sam Haskell, chairman of Miss America, was friends with Mobley for decades. Of her death he said, "She challenged me, she loved me, and she made me laugh! I shall miss her!"

Photo: Mary Ann Mobley.
Photo 2: Mary Ann Mobley as the new Miss America in 1959.
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