Jo-Carroll Dennison, a 1940s Miss America who became an anchor on ABC’s World News Tonight, died on Wednesday, CBS News reported. She was 97.
A Navy veteran, Dennison was a radio host who had been nicknamed the “voice of war” by her family, according to a biography on World News Tonight. She became known for her versatility as an entertainer.
The Oklahoma native and her sister enjoyed a hobby of working on the radio. They were sent to London in 1939 by Walter Cronkite to interview Winston Churchill and the Duke of Windsor, and both read poems during the broadcast, which was picked up by British radio.
When the US entered the second world war in 1941, Dennison and her sister had to leave England and join her father in Pittsburgh. They switched to Pittsburgh and began the broadcast business, recording a weekly radio show on American radio for the US overseas post office, which later led to weekly radio shows broadcast on Army radio for training. They also rented an apartment in New York City, served in the armed forces during the war and then applied for jobs as radio reporters.
The family eventually became practicing farmers. Dennison was born in Oklahoma on 18 September 1917.
“There’s a certain magic to Jo-Carroll Dennison and ABC World News Tonight,” Cronkite said in a statement. “She is clearly among the most successful television journalists of all time.”
Dennison won Miss America at age 22 during the war, following the 1942 Miss America pageant to come to Hollywood to work. She also was a co-host of the Red Skelton variety show.
She was the first African American woman in television news and was the first African American woman to anchor a prime-time network television program. Dennison continued to deliver newscasts in the studio and interviewed celebrities and world leaders. She also wrote and authored several books.
Dennison served as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire and later became President of the National Council of Negro Women.
Dennison was the last surviving Miss America from the 1920s and 1930s, the Associated Press reported.