When Shelby Claire Thompson was named Miss Tennessee 2013 last month in Jackson, she became the second Miss Music City representative to win the title. However, the Franklin resident and University of Tennessee graduate also has a Chattanooga royalty connection.
In 1977, Eunice Elizabeth Belew won the Miss Chattanooga Pageant and finished in the top 10 at the state competition. She eventually married Milton Thompson and the couple has two daughters the eldest of whom will be departing for Atlantic City in September to compete at the Miss America Pageant as it makes its return to its birthplace.
However, the next stop on the Thompson family itinerary is a return trip to Chattanooga for Sunday’s Scenic City Pageants at Chattanooga State which will include a special appearance by Shelby who is on a limited schedule as she prepares for the Miss America competition. The event, which will be held at the C.C. Bond Humanities Auditorium, gets underway at 4 p.m. Admission is $15 and Miss Tennessee 2012 and former Miss Chattanooga and Miss Scenic City Chandler Lawson will emcee.
The four-title program which consists of Misses Chattanooga, Metropolitan, Scenic City and Tennessee Valley is not only the largest state preliminary but is also among the most prestigious local programs in the nation. Started in 2002 the program led by Executive Director Rodney Hullender and his assistants Keith Brown and Bobbie Nation, has produced four Miss Tennessee winners (Jamie Watkins Davenport (2003), Blaire Pancake (2006), Ellen Carrington Shelton (2008) and Ms. Lawson (2012)), a pair of top 10 Miss America finalists (Ms. Shelton and Ms. Lawson) along with countless state runners-up, semi-finalists and preliminary winners.
The four titles are open statewide meaning that contestants who meet the requirements are eligible to participate. As a result, many veteran contestants along with several newcomers compete in the pageant. The winners will each receive a $500 scholarship but will also undergo in-depth preparation for the 2014 state finals next June. They will make appearances throughout the Chattanooga area during their year of service as did the 2013 titleholders Dacey Winkleman (Chattanooga), Jaclyn Torrento (Metropolitan), Amy Catherine Flynn (Scenic City) and Hannah Robison (Tennessee Valley). All four 2013 winners are eligible to compete in this year’s pageant but the contestant lineup will be kept secret until Sunday.