Miss America 1945 Bess Myerson, passed away on December 14 at her home in Santa Monica, California.
Bess was a first in many respects, she was the first Jewish American Miss America crowned on September 8, 1945, in Atlantic City. Bess was also the first Miss New York to be crowned Miss America, and she became the Miss America Organization’s first scholarship recipient.
After obtaining her degree from Hunter College, Bess used her Miss America scholarship to continue her education and complete her graduate studies in music at The Juilliard School and Columbia University.
Bess used her Miss America title to fight anti-Semitism and racial bigotry as she traveled around the country. Following her year as Miss America, she continued to speak out on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League in cooperation with the NAACP and the Urban League.
Know for her beauty and her quick wit, Bess became a popular television personality and in 1951, she was hired as the Mistress of Ceremonies for “The Big Payoff”. She was a panelist on “I’ve Got A Secret”, and she appeared in multiple episodes of Alan Funt’s “Candid Camera.”
From 1969 until 1973 Bess served as the Commissioner of Consumer Affairs for New York City. She was named as the architect for the consumer protection legislation and was featured on the cover of Life Magazine on July 16, 1971, titled “A Consumer’s Best Friend.”
In 1980, Bess ran for the Democratic nomination for New York’s US Senate seat and although she did not win the nomination, her commitment to public service continued through her appointment as Commissioner of Cultural Affairs by former New York Mayor, Ed Koch.
Bess was a founder of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York and also established the Bess Myerson Film and Video collection. Her civic and philanthropic achievements also included support of The Guild for the Blind.
She also supported the Hebrew University for Cancer Reserch and SHARE, as well as the Ovarian Cancer Program. Bess received the distinguished Presidential appointments, in honor of her many accomplishments, by former United States Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
Bess Myerson will always be remembered for her remarkable life-long achievements and for her unwavering commitment to serving others by demanding equality for all. We offer our deepest sympathies to Bess’s daughter and her family. We will keep them in our thoughts and in our prayers.
Through a life well lived, Miss America, Bess Myerson, left this world a better place!