1965 Miss America Pageant - Vonda Kay Van Dyke Miss Arizona wins
Vonda Kay Van Dyke, Miss Arizona, won the 1965 Miss America Pageant, despite failing to win either a preliminary swimsuit or talent competition award. She was the first Miss Arizona to win the title since Jacque Mercer won the 1949 Miss America Pageant. She was crowned by outgoing Miss America 1964, Donna Axum of Arkansas.
Miss America 1965 Vonda Kay Van Dyke, Miss Arizona, with her dummy Kurley-Q.
Van Dyke is a noteworthy Miss America on several accounts. First, she was the first (and only to date) ventriloquist ever to win the Miss America crown. She and her adorable dummy Kurley-Q, won the hearts of audience with a comedy routine and medley of "Together".
Vonda was also the only Miss America ever to be voted Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants - a highly unusual honor which she retains to this day.
Van Dyke also became widely known as the first contestant ever to openly share her faith in Jesus during the all-important final questions on live television. To discuss religion during the pageant was widely considered to be a kiss of death, yet Miss Arizona carried it off with aplomb. When asked if the Bible she had been seen carrying with her throughout the week was her good luck charm, she replied:
"I do not consider my Bible a lucky charm. I consider it the most important book I own. I wouldn't exactly classify my companionship with God as 'religion'. I would classify it as faith. I believe in God. I trust in Him and I pray that, even tonight, His will be done."
Vonda was an extremely popular Miss America who traveled extensively throughout the United States with her beloved dummy, Kurley-Q. According to former titleholder Bess Myerson, Van Dyke was "one of the most popular Miss Americas."
At the end of her year, she returned to Atlantic City to crown her successor, Deborah Bryant, Miss Kansas, as Miss America 1966.
There, during her live farewell speech as the retiring queen, she again brought up her faith as she shared with millions of viewers that she had remained true to her promise to keep her faith in Jesus Christ central to her reign.
"My year as Miss America will not be remembered for what I have taken from it, but for what I've become by it. This crown has offered many valuable gifts. It has sparkle with thousands of miles of travel. It has glowed with hundreds of priceless friendships. And it had reflected a bright new world of knowledge, with an opportunity to grow both mentally and spiritually. These lasting, life-changing gifts deserve a thank you to many wonderful people, but most of all to God for giving me an open mind and an open heart to take these gifts and use them. I ascended my throne last September with two statements: that my biggest responsibility was to live up to my Christian testimony, and that the most important book I owned was my Bible. Tonight, I descend my throne with the same statements and the same scriptural promise which says: 'For we know that all things work together for the good for them who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.' So, you see, I won't be stepping down; I'll be stepping up to a year, to a new life and a new challenge."
It was the first time a Miss America had discussed at length her Christian faith during the pageant's live television broadcast... and it created a stir. Van Dyke would later tell Knight-Ridder News reporters, "It's hard to believe that my talking about Christianity was such a big deal....After I was told I shouldn't talk about that subject again. I said I wouldn't bring it up, but I would tell the truth if someone asked about my religion. And, of course, everybody brought it up."
After her reign, she attended the University of California at Los Angeles to study radio and television, and toured the country for a time as an entertainer, including appearances with Jack Benny.
Now, a well-known Christian speaker and author, Vonda is married to David Scoates, a Methodist minister, and has one daughter, Vandy.
Source: Ocala Star-Banner (February 6, 1987)
Pageant Results > Miss America Pageant > 1965 Vonda Kay Van Dyke
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