Mary Ann Mobley, actress and Miss America 1959, dies at 77

Mary Ann Mobley, the first Miss America from Mississippi, has died at age 77

Mary Ann Mobley, who stepped into the spotlight as the first Miss Mississippi to become Miss America and later hit the silver screen opposite Elvis Presley, has died. She was 77.

She died Tuesday morning at her Beverly Hills home from complications of breast cancer, her family said in a statement.

The Brandon, Miss., native graduated from Ole Miss in 1958, became Miss America the next year at age 21 and served out her year term before trying her hand at acting.

After working for several years on stage — with costars including Betty Grable in "Guys and Dolls" — and on TV, Mobley landed her first film gig: 1965's "Girl Happy" with Presley.

She rejoined the King for another 1965 film, "Harum Scarum," and took home that year's Golden Globe for most promising newcomer. 

"When I was a little boy growing up in Mississippi, there were two Mississippi stars who I idolized...," said 40-year friend Sam Haskell, chairman and chief exec of the Miss America Organization, in a statement Tuesday. "One was Elvis Presley and the other was Mississippi's first Miss America Mary Ann Mobley."

The bulk of her work was on the small screen, with roles in stalwart series of the '70s and '80s including "Love, American Style," "Fantasy Island, "Diff'rent Strokes," "The Love Boat" and "Falcon Crest."

Mobley met her husband, the late actor and TV personality Gary Collins, on the set of the 1966 Jerry Lewis movie "Three on a Couch." They married in November 1967.

Mobley eventually cohosted the 1989 Miss America Pageant with her husband, who was also master of ceremonies for the show in 1985, 1990 and 1991.

The two were together until his death in October 2012.

She spent years documenting the young victims of war and starvation in places such as Cambodia, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Sudan, her family said.

The 1958 University of Mississippi graduate was the first woman voted into the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame.

More recently, Mobley completed a three-season run that the Annenberg Theater in Palm Springs in a new musical, "Senior Class," and debuted a cabaret act.

Mobley was involved with charities, including the March of Dimes, the National Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, National Council on Disability and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and was among the celebs who took calls during the "Mississippi Rising" telethon, which raised millions to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

According to the Miss America Organization, she was most proud of the Mary Ann Mobley Children's Unit, which opened in 1985 at what is now Crossgates River Oaks Hospital in her hometown.

Mobley is survived by daughters Clancy Collins White and Melissa Collins, son Guy William Collins, sister Sandra Young and two grandsons, Garrett and Gaston Collins, the family said.

Services will be held Monday at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson, Miss., with burial at Parkway Funeral Home.

A complete obituary will appear at latimes.com/obituaries.

Follow Christie D'Zurilla on Twitter @theCDZ and Google+. Follow the Ministry of Gossip on Twitter @LATcelebs.

 

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
71°