I WAS A SOUTHERNER AND A BEAUTY QUEEN BUT----NOT A RACIST!
Oh, to be young again and know what I know today. From My Book:
One week before competing in The Miss America Pageant, my chaperone and I flew to New York City where, in addition to photography sessions, news conferences, and a luncheon with the Mayor of New York City, I appeared on the Today Show and the Ed Sullivan Show. It may be impossible for some to remember so far back but, in the fifties, Television was live--no taping—and in black and white-- no color. Television was the rage and everyone in America, rich, middle class, or poor ----craved a television set. Television quickly became the number one form of news and entertainment.
The morning of my scheduled Today Show appearance, my chaperone felt ill and unable to accompany me to the NBC Studios. She asked the hotel’s manager to place me in a reputable Taxi and tell the driver my destination. Seemingly friendly, the driver mentioned my southern accent and asked where I was from. I proudly told him I was Miss Arkansas and.....before I could say more.....the driver swerved his taxi to the curb and ordered me to “Get your ass out of my taxi, you Racist!” Scared beyond words, I jumped out of the taxi’s back seat and had barely closed the door before the taxi sped away. Looking around, I had no idea where I was or where I was going. But, just like in the movies, a police officer walked up to me and said “Lady, you look lost, can I help you?” You may not know it but Southern women tend to be a little demonstrative, especially when they feel “thankful.” Without a second thought, I threw my arms around my hero---this larger-than-life policeman--- and hugged him. A few minutes later, I was sitting in the back of a patrol car being driven to the studios of NBC, home of The Today Show.
Too bad no hero appeared to “save” me from the questions I received that morning, questions like “Why does your Governor hate Negros?” or “Why does your state insist on treating Negros like slaves?” No one forewarned me or “prepped” me for answering political questions. It was live, national television which could be brutal. I was a beauty queen, not a politician, but I answered each question. Later that evening, I received a telegram from the advertising agent who managed the Miss Arkansas Pageant: “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln....did you enjoy the Play?” I suppose I wasn’t very wise to the ways of the world at that age. It took me several years to figure out the meaning of that telegram.
Before arriving in Atlantic City for the Pageant, I’d been told the Miss Arkansas Float would be one of the most expensive and eye-catching floats in the Boardwalk Parade. The Miss Arkansas Committee had increased their Pageant Budget so the Float carrying Miss Arkansas in the Boardwalk Parade could be designed and decorated by New York City’s most experienced parade-float professionals. The evening of the parade, seeing the float for the first time, I was shocked. It was gaudy-ugly; it carried out a gold and black Cleopatra-Egyptian theme, complete with an elaborate throne flanked by black panthers wearing rhinestone collars. Not only was it completely over-the-top, but the black panthers and the elaborate throne.....hinted of centuries-old slavery. When the parade crew helped me on the throne, one man remarked, “Who would put Black Panthers on a Beauty Queen float, anyway? They distract from the Beauty Queen!!!!!”
My driver found our place in the parade line-up and almost immediately, the parade music began. We’d traveled approximately five hundred feet and I was waving, smiling, greeting the crowds when, out of nowhere, objects began hitting me; the float was quickly littered with tomatoes, apples, tennis balls, paper cups, ice and other liquids....all smashing on and around me.... striking my head, my body, and discoloring my white gown. At the same time, the float began wobbling and shaking as angry people, shouting ugly names like “Nigger Hater” and “Racist Bitch” were trying to climb onboard. Within seconds, the float and surrounding area was alive with police and security. They stopped the parade, cleared everyone away and, concerned for my physical well-being, found a doctor to give me a quick once-over. The parade crew was attempting to clean both me and my float when they received news that, for security reasons, my float was being pulled from the parade. The Chief of Police escorted me to his car and safely-back to my hotel.
Later, I learned from local reporters that the National Press had been running a series of articles, mostly appearing in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, featuring Arkansas’s Governor and the state’s race problems. A reporter shared a Philadelphia newspaper featuring a large photo of me accompanied by an article titled: Miss Arkansas proudly represents a Southern State that’s famous for abusing, mistreating, and murdering Negros.
So---what prompted the so-called Parade-Float Professionals—being- paid Top Dollars--- to decorate the Float for Miss Arkansas with a Throne-- guarded by Black Panthers?!? Obviously it was NO coincidence--- and--- NO accident.