Editor’s note: The following story is part of a feature called Home Grown in which we take a look at the people and products that have made a name for themselves well beyond our Middle Georgia borders.
Only twice has Miss Georgia been crowned Miss America, and those tiaras can be traced back to Macon where both brunette beauties studied music.
In 1952, Neva Jane Langley, who grew up in Florida’s orange groves, wowed Atlantic City judges and won all three preliminary competitions, including talent.
She had honed her piano-playing to such perfection at Wesleyan Conservatory that she flawlessly continued her performance in a blackout during the Miss Georgia pageant.
Six decades later, 14-year-old Betty Cantrell, from the peach country side of Warner Robins, began voice lessons at Wesleyan.
She later studied opera at Mercer University, where the grand performance hall is named for Neva Jane Langley Fickling, who left the limelight to raise her children.
Fickling died of cancer in 2012, three years shy of seeing the live broadcast of Cantrell’s stirring selection from “Madame Butterfly” that led to her becoming Miss America 2016.