The History of “Miss Johnson C. Smith”
How it all began…
In 1928 the first issue of The Bull, the JCSU yearbook, featured Miss Valinda Wagner as sponsor of the Smith-Virginia State football game that year. In the 1930 issue, three sponsors for three separate sports were listed: Miss Vivienne Scott for football,
Miss Dorothy Fletcher for basketball, and Miss Elnora Owens for baseball. It is unclear who these women were because until 1932 JCSU did not allow women to attend, but it is likely that they were students at Smith’s parallel school for women at the time, Barber-Scotia College in Concord. The title of “sponsor” was used until it became “Miss Smith,” which was eventually replaced by “Miss Johnson C. Smith” and bestowed on one lucky lady each year before the annual Homecoming football game.
During the 1940’s, the JCSU Homecoming Queen was crowned by the President of the University on the football field during halftime of the Homecoming contest. The coronation of the Queen soon became the centerpiece of Homecoming activities and was performed the Friday evening before the Saturday afternoon game. Staged in Biddle Hall until the new gymnasium was built in 1961, the ceremony was designed to resemble the crowning of the British queen. 1950’s Miss JCSU Queens included Vivian Freeman (1950), Cynthia Morrow (1951), Bessie Sigler (1952), Clementine Riggsbee (1953), Sallie Stevenson (1954), Saundra Medford (1956), Doris Henderson Counts (1957), Gwendolyn Borders (1958), and Ann Austin (1959).
By 1961, more than 30 women had been crowned “Miss Johnson C. Smith” as Homecoming Queen, and an effort was made to reunite all the past queens. 1960’s JCSU Queens from the ‘60s included Ann Martin (1960), Shirley Vaughn, (1961), Annie Wallace (1962), Virgie Daniels (1963), Josie Foster (1964), Ida Bouler (1965), and Bettie Crawford (1966).
The concept of “Black is Beautiful,” a dominant theme of the Black awareness movement sweeping many colleges during the late 1960’s, began to define the coronation activities of the JCSU Homecoming queen. The first coronation with this new emphasis would be in 1972, where the script for the ceremony was written in Swahili and the setting was given an African motif instead of having its previous British flavor. Throughout the 1970’s the coronation would have these themes, as the queen was carried by
men in loincloths and surrounded by Egyptian and other African themes. Since Miss Wagner was honored in 1930 there have been 90 JCSU homecoming queens including Myracle Stevenson, Miss JCSU for the school’s 150th anniversary in 2016-2017.