Little Rock Look Back: Miss City Beautiful

Miss City Beautiful 1964 Rita Fern Yoder with two of her princesses

Miss City Beautiful 1964 Rita Fern Yoder with two of her princesses

In the 1950s and 1960s, the City of Little Rock’s City Beautiful Commission sponsored a beauty pageant – Miss City Beautiful.

The commission was created in 1947. In 1950, they started the pageant.  The contest was linked to the annual beautification drive with the winner presiding over a series of events.

Though most of the appearances centered around the beautification drive, they would also appear at other City-related events throughout the year.  One summer, West Point cadet Wesley Clark was greeted at the Little Rock airport by city dignitaries and Miss City Beautiful when returned to make some appearances.

Contestants were usually high school seniors or recent graduates.  There was a preliminary round in which contestants would meet with judges, who would pick finalists. The young women were judged on “attractiveness, poise, personality, and effective speech.”

Usually there would be around eight judges, who would be from other cities in Arkansas or neighboring states.  Sometimes the final day of the pageant would be televised on local TV.

The winners and the finalists would receive prizes.  On at least one occasion the five finalists were given a trip to Washington D.C.  A comprehensive list of the finalists and winners does not currently exist.  But perhaps the most notorious winner was 1952’s Charlotte Moorman, who would later gain national notice as the Topless Cellist.

By the late 1960s, interest in the pageant waned from potential contestants. At the same time, the City Beautiful Commission was undergoing some organizational shifts of its own.  Therefore the pageant was discontinued.