Rural Arkansas, September 1971
Marilyn Morgan started her winning streak as a Ludwig 4- H Club contestant when she was 10 years old.
Growing up on a farm just north of Clarksville city limits, she is the daughter of Arkansas Valley Electric members, Mr. and Mrs. George L. Morgan Jr.
“She has always been ‘my boy’ and worked hard at everything,” Mr. Morgan said. Now her 15-year-old brother, Steven, has taken over the boy role, as Marilyn’s goals moved in other directions.
“Oh, she can handle a tractor, wheel a cattle truck and judge livestock with the best of them,” her father said.
“She showed fat calves at the Arkansas Livestock and won six years in a row. She always came home with a blue ribbon – this time, it was a crown.”
The Clarksville Kiwanis Club sponsored Miss Morgan as their entry in the Queen Elberta competition at the Johnson County Peach Festival. She won, becoming Queen Elberta XXIX. She had a tradition to live up to – her mother was Queen Elberta VI.
As Queen Elberta, Marilyn was automatically the Clarksville entry in the Miss Arkansas Pageant.
“Our families, the Morgans and the Kings, have always enjoyed gathering around the piano, singing for hours at a time,” Mrs. Morgan reminisced. Marilyn joined in while quite young and I’ll give Grandpa King the credit for all the coaching she has ever had in voice.
“She has had five years of piano training, but she uses that mostly in accompanying herself. I suppose you could say she has always had the feeling of wanting to sing,” her mother said.
Being able to transmit that feeling into her talent number, “Something” was the overwhelming factor in her winning the “Miss Arkansas” title.
The title holder turned 20 this month, has green eyes, dark blonde hair and olive complexion. She is five feet, six inches tall and weighs 118 pounds. “I’d say I could stand a little more weight,” Marilyn said, “but my favorite food is chef’s salad and that doesn’t put on weight very fast.”
A junior home economies major at State College of Arkansas, she has a 3.85 grade point average out of a possible 4.0, “I try,” she said. And looking at her record proves she gets results. She took special tests and honors classes, finishing her first semester with 25 hours accumulated. The average earned is 16.
Traveling and special appearances required as Miss Arkansas will cause her to forego the ’71-72 school year. I want Arkansas to be proud of me and I intend to work at it full time.
This attitude really runs in the family. Marilyn’s 17-year-old sister, Carolyn, enters State College at Conway this year on a scholarship. And her brother, Steven, was chosen one of six delegates to attend the American Institute of Cooperation at Fort Collins at about the same time she was winning the Miss Arkansas title.
The Morgan farm consists of 400 acres with an additional 300 acres leased. They raise Angus-Charlois cross beef cattle and range 70,000 turkeys.
Marilyn has always helped me with livestock and in caring for the young turkeys in the broiler houses also when moving them to the range,” Mr. Morgan said. “We have always been a co-op family. My folks and the wife’s folks at Ludwig were on the first lines. We joined on our own in 1950. When we built our all-electric home recently, Arkansas Valley Electric people were the best advisors we could have had.”
It seems that George Morgan made a good decision on his own when he selected Geraldine King, Miss Elberta VI, for his wife. And looking at the laurels they and their children have won and are winning, the citizens of Arkansas may be assured that Marilyn Morgan (with no middle name), as Miss Arkansas, will live up to her statement of wanting the “state to be proud of her.”
To read the rest of the article from Rural Arkansas 1971 and for more photos, contact the Johnson County Historical Society (JCHS).
The JCHS is a non-profit organization that strives to uncover, protect, and generate interest in the history of Johnson County. With the community’s help, JCHS pieces together the history of Johnson County and preserves it at the museum in downtown Clarksville through records, photography and other forms of permanent media, including the JCHS Journal. For more stories like this, to purchase a Journal, become a member, schedule a tour or to donate to this important work call 479-754-3334, visit the Heritage Center at 133 W. Main Street or visit their website at http://www.johnsoncountyarkansashistoricalsociety.com.
Cover photo: Marilyn Morgan Naylor (right) held the title of Queen Elberta XXIX in 1970 and went on to capture the title of Miss Arkansas 1971. She is pictured here on the September 1971 cover of “Rural Arkansas,” with her mother, Geraldine King Morgan, who was crowned Queen Elberta VI in 1947.
Peach Parade 1947 – Queen Elberta VI Geraldine King (center) rides on a float in the Peach Festival Parade in 1947. This photo was taken near the 200 block of Main Street, on the northwest corner of the court square.
–Photos courtesy of Johnson County Historical Society