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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Miss North Carolina Scholarship Pageant

by Angelyn H. Patteson, 2006; Revised December 2021

Each year in late June, local pageant winners from across North Carolina convene Deneen Z. Graham of North Wilkesboro after being crowned Miss North Carolina on 25 June 1983. She was the first African American to win the title. Courtesy of North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh. in Raleigh to compete for the title of Miss North Carolina and the right to represent North Carolina in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., in September. The Miss North Carolina Scholarship Pageant celebrated its 69th anniversary in 2006, although there is disagreement about when the first pageant was actually held. According to pageant records, the event has been held annually since 1937 except for one year during World War II. The Wilmington Star reported that there was a pageant held in 1933 in Wrightsville Beach, which was won by Miss Sanford, Leola Councilman. Miss America Pageant records, however, do not include a mention of a 1933 Miss North Carolina.

The last time a Miss North Carolina reigned as Miss America was in 1962, when Maria Beale Fletcher, Miss Asheville, won the honor. By the early 2000s the Miss North Carolina Scholarship Pageant had begun emphasizing academic, philanthropic, and other accomplishments rather than mere beauty. In addition to being judged during the pageant in talent, interview, swimsuit, and evening wear categories, modern contestants must have previously chosen a social cause and performed community service. The winner and the runners-up are awarded scholarships and prizes. The reigning Miss North Carolina not only represents the state in the prestigious Miss America Pageant but also maintains a busy schedule, presiding over local pageants, charity events, and festivals.

Aa list of pageant winners can be found here.

Additional Resources:

Miss North Carolina website:

Miss America website:

Origin - location: