1947 Miss America Pageant - Barbara Jo Walker Miss Tennessee wins
Barbara-Jo Walker won the 1947 Miss America Pageant competing as Miss Memphis, Tennessee. She had entered the Memphis State University pageant for scholarship money. The last winner to be crowned in a swimsuit, she received her crown, robe and scepter from outgoing Miss America 1946, Marilyn Buferd of California.
Miss America 1947 Barbara Jo Walker, Miss Tennessee.
She won the talent competition performing a medley of talent, piano, vocal and display of her paintings.
In a fascinating, and somewhat amusing, departure from tradition, pageant officials allowed swimsuit sponsor Catalina to provide contestants with rather daring two piece swimsuits for the swimsuit competition.
Presumably, the bikinis sudden appearance on the Convention hall stage simply reflected the introduction of the "bikini" the summer before by two fashion designers.
Oddly, the swimwear consisted of what resembles a heavy-duty Maidenform bra worn with a tennis skort garnished with an odd print - flying fish (or are those fighter planes?) leaping across one hip.
Barbara Jo Walker, Miss America 1947, in the unusual Catalina swimsuit assigned to contestants that year (credit: Flickr).
The following year, the pageant was back to wholesome one-piece swimsuits with modesty panels, making 1947 the only year contestants wore two piece swimsuits until pageant organizers changed the rules to allow two-piece swimwear in 1997.
The only winner to officially and publicly marry during her reign, Barbara Jo wed Dr. John Vernon Hummel, a Navy physician in obstetrical residency, during a widely publicized ceremony attended by her judges.
At the conclusion of her reign, she crowned her successor, BeBe Shopp, Miss America 1948, Miss Minnesota.Unlike her predecessor Marilyn Buferd who turned to Italian and Hollywood films after her reign, Barbara-Jo declined offers for stage and screen roles to return to complete her degree at Memphis State University.
Barbara-Jo went on to host a TV show, although her primary devotion in life was the one she shared at that 1946 Miss America Pageant - to be a wife and mother. She raised three children and has was active in church and charity work.
Barbara-Jo died on June 7, 2000. A Senate Joint Resolution 926 honored her as "one of Tennessee’s most distinguished citizens."**
Sadly, Barbara-Jo's first born, Andy Hummel, who became widely known as the bassist for the band Big Star, died from cancer in 2010.
Sources: *History.com, **www.capitol.tn.gov
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