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The City Journals

Miss Murrays—past, present, future to gather

Sep 15, 2021 01:23PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Miss Murray 1941 royalty, Virginia Lu Jensen Thompson, Faye Morgan, Marian Stauffer, Mary Vicchrilli and Selina Price. (Photo courtesy Murray Museum)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

This year’s Miss Murray crowning event will be extra special, as there will be more Miss Murrays in the same room than ever before. Current scholarship winner Kyleigh Cooper, who will crown the next Miss Murray, will, of course, be there, but also every living former Miss Murray that can attend.

“We are holding a Miss Murray Reunion along with our regular competition on Sept. 11, 2021, to help mark the 100th Anniversary of the Miss America Organization,” Miss Murray Director Leesa Lloyd said. “It is quite a milestone that this competition is still going strong. It began in 1921, literally as a bathing suit contest in Atlantic City. It has evolved many times over the decades, with the most drastic change occurring in 2018, with what they called Miss America 2.0. The biggest difference was getting rid of the swimsuit portion of the competition, which was always the most controversial portion. Also, it is referred to now as a competition, not a pageant.”

The Miss Murray Organization has been sending a Miss Murray to the Miss Utah Competition since the mid-1970s; several Murray winners have placed well in that competition. For example, Brooke Anderson Maxwell, in 1995, went on to become Miss Utah and compete for Miss America. 

“This event is our annual competition that we hold every year at MHS. On Sept. 11, we will hold a luncheon for all the former Miss Murrays, current candidates and committee. At this luncheon, I will have the women introduce themselves and share a favorite memory from their year as Miss Murray. Then, that evening at the actual competition, we will introduce these women one at a time and let them be recognized onstage. We have women coming from other states, as well as Karen Oliver Shaw, who was Miss Murray 50 years ago, in 1971,” Lloyd said.

In addition to honoring all past Miss Murrays, the competition will recognize Murray City School District Superintendent Jennifer Covington. Before becoming MCSD’s first female superintendent, she was a business and information technology teacher at Murray High School in 1994. She was named assistant principal at Hillcrest Junior High School in 2004 and then principal of that school in 2009.

After having hands-on experience helping her mother, Sandra Lloyd, conduct the Miss Riverton Pageants for years, Leesa Lloyd was tapped to coordinate the Miss Murray Scholarship Pageant in 1995. She has been teaching high school for the past 39 years, 36 of those at Murray High, where she teaches dance and psychology, choreographs the school musicals, and directs the Murray Dance Company. 

According to Lloyd, “Everyone involved in the Miss America System is a volunteer. Those of us who volunteer with the organization enjoy working with young women who are intelligent, service-oriented, talented, and constantly work on self-improvement. We see year after year the growth and development in not only the young woman who becomes Miss Murray but every candidate that participates.

“I stay involved because of the focus on service, education, and doing something with what is called a Social Impact Initiative. This is a social issue that Miss Murray educates others on and works to make Murray a better place. It is amazing what these women have gone on and done in their lives, many finding huge success in the business world, becoming professional actors and dancers, and receiving Ph.D.’s. This pageant system contributes and helps these women on their journey in finding their careers and place in the world.”

It’s not entirely clear who or when the first Miss Murray was crowned. Newspapers show different organizations and outlets hosting some type of Miss Murray pageant in the early 1930s. The current organization was started in the 1970s by Rhea Kiissel. 

“The Miss Murray Scholarship Competition will go on because Miss Murray continues to serve Murray City in many ways. We have always had the support of the city council and the Murray City mayors. They provide the scholarships that we award to the top three who place in the competition. They see the value in what we do, and we plan on continuing with the competition,” Lloyd said.

The Miss Murray Scholarship Competition will be held in the Murray High School auditorium on Sept. 11. More details regarding the time and tickets for the event can be found on the Miss Murray Organization Facebook page.