Tonight’s the first night Pageant will honor man who brought it to city

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It was the summer of 1957, and Vicksburg Mayor John D. Holland heard Miss America officials were looking for a home for the annual Mississippi pageant, which had been moved from city to city.

A member of the Vicksburg Jaycees, Holland asked his men’s civic club to step up, invite the pageant and promote the city and its hospitality. He even dubbed Vicksburg “The Red Carpet City of the South.”

Fifty-five years and 55 pageants later, the annual Vicksburg competition, which opens with preliminaries tonight, will be dedicated to John Dale Holland, who died at his Jackson home on May 11.

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On Thursday night, the audience at Vicksburg Convention Center will see and hear a tribute to Holland, which will include video footage of the former mayor and longtime pageant emcee in action, said executive director David Blackledge.

Additionally, Blackledge said, “The Miss Mississippi Board approved a $1,000 cash scholarship to be awarded in Holland’s honor, and the scholarship will become a perpetual scholarship given annually.”

On Aug. 7, 1958, Vicksburg hosted its first Miss Mississippi pageant and saw the winner, Mary Ann Mobley of Brandon, go on to be crowned Miss America.

In 1959, it was the same song, second verse.

Natchez’s Lynda Lee Mead was crowned Miss Mississippi and went to Atlantic City and picked up the national crown.

Mississippi has seen two other women crowned Miss America in the 53 years since.

Throughout the 55 years and even after he and his family left Vicksburg and City Hall for his new job at Mississippi Power & Light in Jackson, Holland served as master of ceremonies for the pageant. He also was a Miss America Pageant official and judged many Miss America-affiliated state pageants.

During that first pageant year, Holland said on the 50th anniversary of the show in Vicksburg, the Jaycees budgeted $9,000 for the production. In the end, they netted $3,000 and used it for a homecoming celebration when Mobley returned to the state.

Today, treasurer Tammy Folger Sutter said, the production costs the Miss Mississippi Corporation about $400,000 annually.