Photo from Encyclopedia of Arkansas, courtesy of Mike Polston
Tonight a new Miss America will be crowned. This ceremony marks the 50th anniversary since Miss America 1964, Arkansan Donna Axum, ended her reign.
A native of El Dorado and a student at the University of Arkansas, during her reign as Miss America Miss Axum (or simply Donna as the newspaper headlines referred to her) made four public visits to Little Rock. As the first Miss Arkansas to become Miss America, the state’s Capitol City was very interested in giving her a warm welcome.
After being crowned on September 7, 1963, her first visit to Arkansas was November 1 through 3. In addition to stops in Hot Springs and El Dorado, she appeared in Little Rock to attend events including an Arkansas Razorback football game at War Memorial Stadium. Her entourage included the top four runners up from the Miss America pageant.
In February 1964, she made a brief appearance in Little Rock which included a press conference.
Donna Axum spent nearly two weeks in Arkansas in May 1964 attending several pageants as well as spending time with family. During that visit she appeared in Little Rock twice. The second time she headlined a concert with the Arkansas Symphony (not related to the current Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) and the Arkansas Choral Society. It took place at Robinson Auditorium.
The Arkansas Choral Society’s annual presentation of selections from Handel’s MESSIAH takes place tonight.
Tonight’s performance of will consist of the Christmas portion of Handel’s oratorio Messiah plus some selected other choruses and solos. The ACS will be joined by the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Vesper Choir. They will be accompanied by musicians from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.
The performance takes place at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the First Pentecostal Church, 1401 Calvary Drive (off Interstate 40), North Little Rock. Tickets: $15, $10 students. Call (501) 376-8484 for more information.
The Arkansas Choral Society is under the direction of Dr. Kent Skinner. He is currently the Director of Choral Activities for the University of Arkansas at Monticello. In this capacity, Dr. SKinner leads the choral program and serves as both stage and music director for the university’s opera and music theatre.
The Arkansas Choral Society is central Arkansas’s oldest continually operating musical organization. Best known for performing Handel’s Messiah in whole or in part every year since 1930, the Society’s repertoire includes both classical and contemporary works. Historically the group has traveled Arkansas performing concerts and has also performed at special events such as the Arkansas Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1986.
The Arkansas Choral Society partners with high school and college choirs throughout Arkansas for its performances, and offers scholarships for college students. The mission of the Arkansas Choral Society is to further and improve choral singing in Arkansas, by performing Handel’s Messiah on an annual basis; by partnering with Arkansas college and high school choruses; and by awarding scholarships to choral singers who are or will be college students, while inviting everyone to join us and to attend our concerts.