Photo from Encyclopedia of Arkansas, courtesy of Mike Polston
While she had made a few other appearances in Little Rock during her reign as Miss America, on May 11, 1964, Donna Axum appeared in concert at Robinson Auditorium.
She sang with the Arkansas Symphony (not directly connected with the current Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) and the Arkansas Choral Society.
The concert was part of the Arkansas State Festival of the Arts which was an annual event from the late 1950s until the mid 1960s.
Miss Axum’s most recent appearance at Robinson was last June when she appeared, along with several other former Miss Arkansas title holders, at the 2017 Miss Arkansas pageant. She was joined on stage by Savvy Shields, who like Miss Axum, was a former Miss Arkansas who held the title of Miss America.
Today, Miss America 2017 Savvy Shields comes to Little Rock as part of her official homecoming to Arkansas after winning the crown. In honor of that, we take a look back to the first visit to Arkansas by Donna Axum, who was the first Miss Arkansas to win the title of Miss America.
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.