1952 Miss America Pageant
Colleen Kay Hutchins, Miss Utah, won the 1952 Miss America pageant, where was crowned by her predecessor, Yolande Betbeze Miss America 1951. Hutchins, a devout Mormon, had graduated from the Pasadena Playhouse and was doing graduate work in drama at the University of Utah. She was the first - and only - Miss Utah to win the title until Sharlene Wells came along to snag the 1985 title.
Miss America 1952 Colleen Kay Hutchins, Miss Utah was the pageant's tallest queen for decades.
Hutchins is one of the most distinctive titleholders of all, but she would later become rather remarkable for her role as matriarch of an American athletic dynasty: the Vandeweghes.
At age 25, Colleen was the oldest winner to date, but with her natural movie star glamour, crystal blue eyes and pale blonde hair, she was also one of the most physically stunning women ever to win the crown: At 5'10" tall in bare feet, and close to 6' 2" in heels, she was one of the tallest queens ever, and at a muscular 143 lbs., the competitive swimmer was possibly the largest.
In Convention Hall during the talent competition, it was hard to overlook the statuesque beauty when she stepped onstage to deliver a dramatic portrayal of "Elizabeth the Queen" in full Elizabethan costume. Judges were enthralled and awarded her the preliminary talent award, and of course, the crown.
But not everyone was an admirer after she won.
According to a Sports Illustrated article by Robert F. Jones, Herald
Tribune reporter Judith Crist penned a snarky article about the new queen:
"Miss America of 1952, the nation's newest, biggest and oldest beauty queen to
date, breakfasted with reporters at the Waldorf-Astoria yesterday and, in the
true tradition, discussed men, marriage and her future—and wore a sweater."
Such cattiness is understandable given the fact that Hutchins could silence a room simply by walking in. Her son Kiki relates how his mother once stopped a basketball game in its tracks when she walked down the sidelines. It was there that she met her future husband. Colleen's brother, Mel Hutchins, a 6' 6" tall All-American basketball star who was playing with the New York Knicks and had just been named NBA Rookie of the Year, invited his sister to attend one of his games...where he made sure to introduce her to the his teammate, forward guard Ernie Vandeweghe. An over-the-top over-achiever by anyone's standards, Vandeweghe was serving his medical school residency while playing professional basketball. He was immediately smitten with his teammate's glamorous sister, and the couple married a year later. After retiring his basketball sneaks, Ernie turned to his medical practice, where he became Dr. Ernest Vandeweghe, the highly regarded pediatrician.
After her reign ended, Colleen crowned her successor, Neva Langley, Miss America 1953, of Georgia, and returned home to...well... birth a family sports dynasty. After marrying her handsome athlete/doctor husband, Colleen gave birth to their four children: Kiki, Tauna, Heather and Bruk, the lucky recipients of the couple's DNA jackpot. Son Kiki Vandeweghe played in the NBA before becoming coach and general manager of the New Jersey Nets, and eventually the NBA's vice president of basketball operations. Son Bruk became a star volleyball player who won a medal in the 1994 Goodwill Games. Daughter Tauna became an Olympic athlete, serving on the U.S. Olympic swimming team in 1976 and the U.S. volleyball team that won a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics. Even their granddaughter, Coco (Tauna's daughter) became a professional athlete, a tennis player with $604,838 in prize earnings to date according to ESPN.
Although Miss America 1952 lived one of the most remarkable lives of all titleholders: to those closest to her, Colleen was known as a fabulous mother, a woman of faith, an active member of her church, and a highly respected member of her community. When Colleen Hutchins Vandeweghe died in Newport Beach, California in March 2010 at age 83, her daughter Shannon paid tribute to her mother's most important quality in the Deseret News: "She wanted us to know that it's not the trophies that you come home with that's important; it's how you love."
Sources: *Los Angeles Times, ** There She Is: The Life and Times of Miss America, *** Deseret News, ESPN, Sports Illustrated
Pageant Results > Miss America Pageant > 1952 Colleen Hutchins
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