1954 Miss America Pageant
Pageant Results > Miss America Pageant > 1954 Evelyn Ay
Evelyn Ay, Miss Pennsylvania, was crowned Miss America 1954 in September 1953 in Atlantic City by outgoing Miss America 1953, Neva Langley, of Georgia.
Evelyn Ay Miss America 1954, Miss Pennsylvania, was the last woman crowned in the pre-television era.
Ay was the last Miss America to be crowned in the pre-television era. A year later, she would become the first winner to crown her successor on live television.
The talent competition was another matter. Miss Pennsylvania's talent was to recite a poem she had memorized earlier that afternoon, "Leaves From my Grass House" -- which she had never bothered to practice out loud.*
Ay was a hugely popular titleholder and a favorite with the public for decades after her reign due to her charm, friendliness and chatty personality. Frank Deford, author of the book, "There She Is: The Life and Times of Miss America", described Ay as "the girl who outtalked Billy Graham."
Unfortunately for any young man who might have the idea of romantically pursuing the popular queen, Ay was safely engaged to her college boyfriend, Navy Lieutenant Carl Sempier, a fellow student at the University of Pennsylvania. Ay married the future IBM executive, shortly after giving up the title, and gave birth to their two daughters.
At the conclusion of her reign, the Ephrata, Pennsylvania native returned to Atlantic City for what was to be one of the most historic Miss America pageants of all... when the now beloved event was broadcast via television for enthralled viewers across the country to see live for the first time. As she took her final walk down the soon-to-be-famous Convention hall runway, she walked into history as the first Miss America ever to do so on live television.
At the close of the broadcast, Evelyn became part of an another pageant first when she crowned Miss California, Lee Meriwether, as Miss America 1955, making Lee the first queen to be crowned on live television.
This beloved Miss America died of colorectal cancer in 2008 at age seventy-five.
Sources: *"Miss America: In Pursuit of the Crown", www.lancasteronline.com
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