‘Celebrity judge’ is president of AMA, Vicksburg native|[7/07/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 7, 2005

A self-professed country doctor who is also president of the American Medical Association is finding himself in an unusual role this week.

“It’s a wonderful experience, but it’s tiring, and we’re just beginning to get into the real competition,” said Dr. Edward Hill, a Vicksburg native who practices in Tupelo and is “celebrity judge” in this week’s Miss Mississippi pageant.

During a routine day, it is possible that Hill, 67, sees patients at his family practice clinic. As leader of the nation’s medical practitioners, it’s also possible that he will talk with politicians and others about complex issues related to the American health-care delivery.

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In Vicksburg, however, he says the challenge is also real.

“It’s a full day, and you need a nap at the end,” he said. “It’s fatiguing because mentally you have to stay on top of your game. You also feel a strong responsibility to each and every girl. You must pick up on her best traits.”

Hill, who has two daughters, said his experience in judging local pageants in the Mississippi Delta has helped prepare him, but he said he still learns from the other four judges who are selecting preliminary winners for two more nights before awarding points leading to the selection of a new Miss Mississippi on Saturday night.

“They talk a language I’ve never heard before,” the 1956 graduate of Carr Central High School in Vicksburg said. “They’re adding an enormous amount to my vocabulary.”

One thing Hill has taken away from his judging experience is a greater appreciation for pageantry.

“Many people consider it to be superficial, not genuine, but that is absolutely not true,” he said. “My experience this week is that it has been a valuable experience for these young women they can’t get anywhere else any other way.”

Indeed, he said the most difficult part of judging the Miss Mississippi pageant is being forced to rank the 42 women. He said the judging would have a profound, obvious impact on one of the girls, but the other 41 would also be affected for the rest of their lives.

“It’s a difficult job with a great deal of responsibility,” he said.

Pageant judges are chosen by the corporate owners of the annual production. Most have experience in the arts – dance or vocal performance – and have judged dozens of pageants all across the country.

“I am not a professional beauty pageant judge,” Hill said. “I’m a country doctor who they are calling a celebrity judge.” And he’s taking it seriously.