Miss Arkansas 1933 Vivian Ferguson - Disqualified (married)


Vivian's bumpy road to the Miss America Pageant apparently began with a Spring 1933 Photographic Beauty contest that was associated with the June 1st opening of the Chicago World's Fair. While she was unmarried when she initiated her participation in the World's Fair contest, she got married just prior to that contest in late May, long before the Miss America Pageant in September. It is unknown how her marital status was uncovered, but Vivian confessed and was consequently disqualified. Rather ironically, the marriage only lasted a year.


1930 Hill/Ferguson family - North Little Rock City, AR
1930 census: North Little Rock, Pulaski, Arkansas
219 1/2 Main Street
M. S. Hill (Female, widowed) 39 (AR) working sheep on a farm
Vivion Ferguson 18 (AR)(daughter), Ruth R. Wiley 36 (AR)(sister) school teacher.
(1920 census: Wiley Ferguson (Female, divorced) 29 (AR) farmer, with daughter Vivian F. Ferguson 7, in Lonoke, AR). Curiously, her father James Ferguson appears** to be alive and living in Oklahoma in 1930, listing himself as still married.

Vivian from the panorama picture - age 20?
Vivian's start in the beauty pageants of 1933 was a prestigious and lucrative international photographic contest sponsored by San Antonio and Chicago newspapers in conjunction with the opening ceremonies for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Along with Miss Kentucky Lucille Rader, Vivian sent her picture in, and was chosen as one of the 51 "Court of Honor" competition winners. She and Lucille were both pictured in the May 14, 1933 San Antonio, TX newspaper, two of 10 winners featured that week. It should be noted that the Court of Honor competition billed itself as looking for girls with charm as opposed to beauty. Along with Lucille, Vivian assuredly traveled to Chicago at a chance at the $5,000 prize of being Queen at the opening of the Chicago World's Fair. The contest was open to women of all ages, but prohibited married women and professional models/actresses. When she sent her photograph in (prior to April 5, 1933), Vivian was not married.

Vivian and Charles Stanley took out two marriage licenses, Feb 25 in Lonoke County and May 20th in Saline County -- the Saline County record (Book w, p.517) states that Vivian Ferguson 21 of Little Rock (Pulaski County) married Charles B. Stanley 26 of Little Rock on May 20th and the marriage was officiated by Justice of the Peace K. H. Sausaman in Pulaski county, and is recorded in Book E p.6 there). Vivian must have left soon after her marriage in order to be in Chicago by May 25th for the crowning of the Queen on May 26th prior to the opening of the Fair on May 27th.

The August 1st Southeastern Missourian (Cape Girardeau, MO) mentions that Vivian was the "Ozark Playgrounds Smile Girl."

It is not certain how Vivian was actually chosen as Miss Arkansas for the Miss America Pageant. It is likely that arrangements were somehow made at the World's Fair in Chicago, by the Miss America pageant promoter Jimmy Carrier; Lucille Rader was chosen Miss Kentucky at this event according to her sons. On the other hand, the encyclopedia of Arkansas states that the Miss Arkansas Pageant, which takes place yearly in Hot Springs (Garland County), officially began in 1939, though two competitions before that year set the stage for the pageant. "Bob Wheeler, long associated with the pageant, is credited with beginning the competition in 1933. The first winner of the pageant was Vivian Ferguson. However, she was later disqualified for being married, and the competition was halted until 1938, when the winner was Lorene Bailey. The next year, for the first time, the winner of the pageant was sent to compete in the Miss America pageant, thus marking the official beginning of the Miss Arkansas competition as recognized by most journalists and historians. ..."

1933 - Vivian is thought to be on the far right
1933 - Vivian is third from right
At any rate, Vivian was one of the seven Midwest contestants, along with Miss Kentucky Lucille Rader, who traveled together from the end of July from Chicago and St. Louis to Atlantic City, spending seven weeks on the "Whistle Stop" beauty tour. As the Atlantic City newspaper described it: "Several of the girls came to this city via a seven weeks vaudeville tour and are now old campaigners. This is the principle difference between the new and the old pageants. While the old pageants were promoted by newspapers and similar agencies, a great many of the girls this year were selected though contests sponsored by amusement parks and similar enterprises who so arranged the contests that they are able to pay all expenses for their entrants."

Vivian is listed in August 26-29 articles in Charleston, WV with the other seven MidWest contestants. She is also pictured in the Sep 6-8 articles nationwide with a picture of five Midwest contestants who visited the Nation's capital; this is thought to be a picture from when many contestants performed at Chevy Chase Lake, a suburb of Washington, DC. The only contestant known to have visited Washington, DC was Miss Wisconsin who made a special trip after the Pageant ended and was received in the Oval Office by President Roosevelt!

The Atlantic City newspapers do not specifically mention Miss Arkansas except on the final days: "...Miss Arkansas, who is Vivian Ferguson, and who, it was stated, is married. No married women can enter the contest under the Pageant rules." It is unknown how her marital status was uncovered, but Vivian confessed and was consequently disqualified; perhaps she had confided in other contestants during the seven-week Whistle-Stop tour, or perhaps her husband followed the tour and he let it slip out or even bragged about it.

Sep 12 1933 Tyrone,PA front page article
Sep 12, Tyrone, PA (front page): "Beautes [sic] Take Vow To Avoid Pageants. Midwestern Girls Left Stranded by Promoters. The national beauty pageant is over and there are at least four little pretties who have taken a vow never to be in another. They are a quartet of midwestern beauties who unwittingly violated the rules of the pageant and were disqualifed. The promoter who selected them permitted three of them to represent states other than the ones in which they resided. The fourth one was married and the promoter did not inform her that this was contrary to the laws of the pageant. As a result the four bewildered beauties are having difficulty today in getting home to forget their humiliation and the tattered memories of a seven-week exhibition tour preceding the pageant. They received no remuneration for the tour. The beauties were only given carfare to the place from which they were supposed to come -- but didn't. In addition, the girls were not given money for their meals on the homeward journey. Miss Arkansas, Virginia [sic - should have been Vivian] Ferguson, who admitted she was "busted," took the matter philosophically. "I don't mind starving for two days to get away from the nightmare," she said. She was disqualified for being married. ..." -- see more details on disqualification.

Vivian's marriage lasted but a year. Charles and Vivian were divorced on 6/21/1934. Charles B. Stanley married Sallie Lloyd in Pulaski County on 12/20/1934.

1940 census in Oklahoma City, OK
In 1940 Vivian is living in Oklahoma City with her second husband, Garland L. McCollum, and her 1-year old son John G. Vivian is 28; her husband is 30 and a fountain manager at a department store. They both were born in Arkansas, but have both been living in Oklahoma City for five years. This marriage does not last long either; Garland McCollum subsequently marries Katherine Fromm and has two more sons; divorced 11/1973. Garland Louis McCollum was born 10/26/1908 in Woodruff,AR and died 1/10/1980 in Santa Cruz,CA.

It is assumed that Vivian marries for a third time (unknown to whom and where) as there is no SSDI for Vivian McCollum. It is also possible that she did not have an SSN or she died prior to the 1960s when these records were maintained. The best place for more research is looking up an obituary for Garland McCollum (Jan 1988 in Santa Cruz, CA) or looking further for son John G. McCollum. If no more information is found prior to 2022, the 1950 census will likely list Vivian under her third married name living with son John G. McCollum.

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** James is known from the 1910 census (second page). It would appear that Mary and James separated/divorced around the time of their son Maurice's death in 1917, and James moved to OK. James is living in Oklahoma on the 1920 census and 1930, as a boarder (curiously, both times he is listed as married, but no wife present). (It is 99% certain this is the correct James Ferguson as the middle initial matches, the age matches, he is born in AR and he lists his father as born in VA). Mary Ferguson lists herself as divorced in 1920 census, and still living in Lonoke. This James F. Ferguson in Hanna, Oklahoma in 1930 dies on August 24, 1943 in Hanna, and his tombstone lists him as a Sgt in the U. S. Army (probably WWI); his wife Willa is also buried there. Perhaps Vivian moved to Oklahoma to be with her father after her divorce in 1934, as this timing matches with her answering she had lived in Okahoma City for five years on the 1940 census. Neither James (or Willa) nor Mary can be located on the 1940 census.

I was contacted in 2015 by Sharon, a relative of Vivian's second husband, Garland McCollum. Thanks so much for this fantastic update! I hope to locate Vivian's descendants to provide them with these pictures -- my quest from the beginning of this project! :)