Crowned Mississippi’s first Miss America in 1959, Mary Ann Mobley became one of the most successful women to hold the title. Born on 17 February 1937, in Brandon, Mississippi, and raised there, Mobley went on to graduate from the University of Mississippi in 1958. In September of that year, she was named Miss America 1959, and she used the crown to launch an acting career. She appeared on television and in a few movies in the early 1960s before starring with fellow Mississippian Elvis Presley in two 1965 films, Girl Happy and Harum Scarum. She made a handful of other feature films later in the decade but was a television regular until the mid-1990s, with recurring roles on Diff’rent Strokes, Falcon Crest, and Hearts Afire as well as more than one hundred guest appearances on other shows. She starred on stage in numerous musical productions and was a daredevil performer on the popular television program Circus of the Stars. Mobley also filmed documentaries showing the impact of war on the children of Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the Sudan.
Mobley married Emmy Award-winning actor and talk show host Gary Collins in 1967, and they had a daughter, Clancy. Though Mobley lived primarily in California for the rest of her life, she and her husband always maintained a home and farm in Mississippi, and she remained devoted to her home state. She served on the boards of the Eudora Welty Foundation Board, the Gertrude Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi, and the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center. She was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. In 1985 the pediatric wing of Rankin General Hospital in Brandon was named in her honor.
Mobley died of breast cancer on 9 December 2014. Her funeral was held in Jackson, and both she and her husband are buried at Parkway Memorial Cemetery in Ridgeland.
- Billy Watkins, Jackson Clarion-Ledger (11 December 2014)
- Mary Ann Mobley, interview by Brenda West; Emma G. Fitzsimmons, New York Times (10 December 2014)