Whatever Happened to Tyler Beauty Who was Crowned Miss America?
Most Texans with long memories know about the two Texas beauties who won the Miss America Pageant in the 1970s, but you need an exceptionally long memory — or be very old — or both, to know anything about the Tyler girl who was Miss America in 1942.
The national press dubbed Jo-Carroll Dennison the “Texas Tornado” because she took the Miss America Pageant by storm. 18 years old at the time, Dennison won the swimsuit and talent portions of the contest with a boogie-woogie tap routine and a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
Jo-Carroll was a natural entertainer because she was literally raised in show business, on the Medicine Show circuit by parents who headed a Vaudeville troupe. She was born in Tyler and she had been singing and dancing since she was two years old, but she returned to Tyler at age 17 to start supporting herself.
After going to business school and getting a secretarial job at a law firm, friends and others persuaded her to enter the 1942 Miss Tyler Pageant. From there she went on to win Miss Texas and Miss America.
As Miss America, Jo-Carroll visited defense plants, hospitals, army camps and sold war bonds. After her one year reign, she appeared in several movies including “Winged Victory” and “The Jolson Story.” She also appeared in a number of television shows in the 1950s.
She married comedian Phil Silvers, but they were divorced five years later. She then married CBS producer Russell Stoneham, with whom she had two sons. She and Stoneham were divorced in 1981.
Jo-Carroll Dennison Silvers Stoneham is now 89 years old, and she still lives in California. Looking back, she says she “had a fantastic life and met so many interesting, talented people.”
Jo-Carroll Dennison is one of only three Texans to win the Miss America title.
In 1971, long retired from show business, she was one of the judges who chose Phyllis George to be Miss Texas and send her to Atlantic City where she became Miss America.
In 1975, Miss Texas Shirley Cothran of Denton also won the Miss America crown.