Friends recount memories of Mary Ann Mobley - - Jackson, MS

Friends recount memories of Mary Ann Mobley

Courtesy Steve Patrick Courtesy Steve Patrick
Courtesy Steve Patrick Courtesy Steve Patrick

Mississippi is mourning the loss of Mary Ann Mobley.She was a former Miss America who went on to appear in movies with Elvis Presley. She was also the first Miss Mississippi crowned Miss America. That was in 1959.

Her friends note that the titles and fame never seemed to phase her. Dr. Joel Payne grew up next door to the Mississippi royalty.

"It was somebody that I was very proud to say that I was a friend of Mary Ann Mobley's," described Payne.

He was 10 years younger but remembers riding horses with Mobley as a kid. He describes her as the type of person who made everyone feel like a friend in their hometown of Brandon. Payne and the other young neighbor watched as admirers came calling.

"Would show up at Mary Ann's house to meet these people because they were driving Corvettes or Thunderbirds or things like that," said Payne. "She would make them take us for a ride before she would go on a date with them."

That's how Payne met recording artists like Fabian and Bobby Darren who he admits he wouldn't have met otherwise. He also saw the small changes.

"She was Mary Ann Mob-ley till she became Miss America," he explained. "And when she became Miss America, for some reason they pronounced it Mo-bley and Mo-bley stuck."

He later even served as a groomsman in her wedding to actor Gary Collins. Through it all, some things never changed.

"She really was just still a friend," Payne said. "She never became some big untouchable."

Many Mississippians have similar stories of friendship with Mobley, including U.S. Senator Thad Cochran who attended Ole Miss with her.

"We were classmates and good friends," Cochran described. "She was really a superstar. Not only Miss America but she was a fine actress, as well. We were in a play together, I remember. She was Helen of Troy and I was Ulysses in a University Players production."

Joel Payne makes it clear that Mary Ann Mobley will be missed.

"We all looked up to her," said Payne.

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