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While she was outside of a bank on way to a drugstore, Jo-Carroll Dennison was stopped on the street by the Vice President of Citizen's National Bank in Tyler, Texas. He asked her to be "Miss Citizen's National Bank" in the Miss Tyler Pageant held by the Tyler Junior Chamber of Commerce. She declined. He insisted that many of the city's finest young women were going to compete for the crown, and each girl could go to Swartz Department Store and pick out their own new swimsuit.
Eighteen, and on her own as a Student at Federal Institute, Jo-Carroll figured she could use a new swimsuit, so she became Miss Citizen's National Bank and in short order, Miss Tyler. Her prizes were a scholarship to Federal and Flying lessons. She thought her pageant days were complete, when she was approached by the Tyler Junior Chamber of Commerce that they expected her to represent them in the Miss East Texas Pageant to be held in Dallas. She politely declined. She was made to feel as though it were her civic duty to her city, so she eventually agreed.
After she won the Miss East Texas Pageant she found out she was expected to go on to Miss Texas to be held August 16th at Austin Stadium with an audience consisting of soldiers from one of the largest Army camps in Texas, Camp Swift. Eight girls competed representing the points of the compass of Texas. Jo-Carroll won.
It was afterward that Jo-Carroll first heard of The Miss America Pageant. She didn't even know where Atlantic City was. She protested that nobody had told her this included a trip to New Jersey, and she just had no desire to go. Yet, after experiencing everyone's pride in her she decided to go on the three-day train trip East. While in Atlantic City, she won the swimsuit and talent contests with a hand-clapping, foot-stomping rendition of "Deep In the Heart of Texas", the national pressed dubbed her "The Texas Tornado", and became Miss America 1942.
As a Wartime Miss America she traveled to visit defense plants, hospitals and service camps and sold war bonds. At the end of her reign, she signed with Twentieth Century-Fox and made several well known films including the acclaimed "Winged Victory" and Oscar-winning "The Jolson Story". In the fifties, she became employed in a new medium....television. She married and successfully raised a family. For many years, she was involved with hospice care in her community. Currently, she is living in California and working on her book entitled, "Finding My Little Red Hat".