World War II Icon Jo Carroll Dennison Passed Away At Age 97

Nov 24th, 2021

Miss America Jo Carroll has passed away at the age of 97 at her home in Idyllwild, California October 18the. Her death was confirmed by her son.

When she was still young, she aspired to be a secretary. She came from a family that is struggling financially. She was the first in her family to attend college. She became a philosophy major at Boston University.

She hoped that one day, she can join beauty pageants. Then in 1942, a local banker asked her to participate in his bank’s beauty contest. The 18-year-old Jo Carroll won the competition giving an energetic performance of the song “Deep in the Heart of Texas” while dressed in a cowgirl outfit.

In fact, her talent segment won her the newspaper title of “The Texas Tornado. ” She also swept the talent and swimsuit contests then went on to win the competition.

This gave her the chance to travel to military bases on the home front during World War II. She entertained the troops as she sang and danced for them. She also sold war bonds.

Then she went on to develop a successful career in television and film. One of her most iconic roles includes her playing the sultry singer Marla Kage in “Mannix” (1971-1978) which lasted for eight seasons. She also appeared in a number of movies like Winged Victory in 1944.

Even though she never became a household name as an actress, she spent decades in the circles of Hollywood royalty. She was always spotted at Gene Kelly’s Saturday night parties and songfests.

Jo Carroll seemed to have a seemingly perfect life, she didn’t. It was later on revealed that when she was 12, she was sexually assaulted, which she called “indentured servitude” during her reign as Miss America.

She became the oldest living Miss America. In a video she posted in September for this year’s celebration of the Miss America pageant’s 100th anniversary, the mother of four stated: “I’m happy to have lived long enough to witness how women’s struggles against inequality, sexual misconduct, and abuse have come to the surface.”

Dennison was briefly married to the comedian Phil Silvers, which gave her further entrée into Hollywood circles.

“I’m glad to have lived long enough to see how women’s fight against inequality, sexual harassment and abuse has finally come to the fore,” she said in a video she made in September for this year’s observance of the 100th anniversary of the Miss America pageant.

Dennison self-published her autobiography this year, titling it Finding My Little Red Hat. The title was a reference to a red felt hat she wore as a talisman for courage when her frequently on the move family saw her enter a new school.

Dennison was born on Dec. 16, 1923, in a men’s state prison in Arizona. Her parents owned and ran a traveling medicine show in Texas. They were on the road when her mother went into labor. A local prison doctor helped deliver her to the prison infirmary.

During her early days, she saw herself as a part of the medicine show. They entertain to lure in the rubes, who were then sold elixirs that promised cures over a host of stubborn ailments. She tap-danced and performed in sketches as part of the show.

The young Jo Carroll and her mother later moved back to Texas after her father passed away. And while working in a bank, she was noticed and asked to enter a beauty contest. Then, as they say, the rest is history.

Jo Carroll is survived by her sons, Peter and John Stoneham, and three grandchildren. No memorial plans have been announced and the cause of her death remains to be a private matter.