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Lillian Platz Cunningham, first Miss Texarkana, dies at 101

Lillian Platz Cunningham, first Miss Texarkana, dies at 101

March 25th, 2019 by Aaron Brand in Texarkana News

The first woman ever crowned Miss Texarkana, Annie Lillian Platz Cunningham, died Tuesday of last week at age 101.

According to Cunningham's obituary, she died at a hospital in Hope, Ark., after living recent years with her daughter, Terri Perkins.

Born June 3, 1917, in Texarkana to Robert and Elizabeth Platz, Cunningham was crowned Miss Texarkana in 1933. According to a June 3, 2017, Gazette article honoring her centenarian accomplishment, she was known to many as "Grandmother" and served as an Avon representative here for more than four decades.

A member of Assemblies of God Church, Cunningham is survived by two daughters and sons-in-law, five grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Husbands Jack Thurman, Richard Haynes and Norman Cunningham preceded her in death, according to her obituary.

The Miss Texarkana Twin Rivers Scholarship Organization offered condolences to her family.

"The crowning of Mrs. Cunningham in 1933 was the beginning of a community tradition which continues still in Texarkana: The Miss Texarkana Pageant. A long line of exceptional women have won the title through the years. The Miss Texarkana Organization continues today, because a 16-year-old girl stepped forward to compete," reads a statement from the Miss Texarkana Twin Rivers Organization.

Cunningham was honored during the 2003 pageant at the Perot Theatre. For that special occasion, a booklet of profile stories written by the former Miss Texarkanas themselves was given to all former titleholders that night.

Cunningham, in that reminiscence provided by the Miss Texarkana Twin Rivers Organization, recalled that she and her father didn't want her to model a swimsuit during the pageant. However, she did compete in evening wear.

She also recalled that when nuns in the Catholic school she attended found out she'd be in the pageant, they told Annie to come by there beforehand. She was in the 10th grade at the time.

"When I went by there, they pinned some medals of Saints on me for good luck. I was really surprised when my name was called. When I started back on stage, I stepped on my gown and almost tripped," she recalled.

As Cunningham came off the stage as the pageant winner, she was asked to sign autographs.

"It was a different feeling to give them my autograph," she said. When the pageant was over, she returned the gown to a neighbor, from whom she borrowed a white, satin ball gown.

"After the pageant was over, I returned the gown to the neighbor and she wore the gown a few weeks later to a party. She told me that several people told her that they recognized that gown because it was Miss Texarkana's gown. She said she felt like she had a famous gown because the first Miss Texarkana was crowned in it. I did not receive a crown or a scholarship, only a loving cup," Cunningham said.

The family plans to hold a memorial service to celebrate Cunningham at a later date. Arrangements are with Texarkana Funeral Home. Texarkanafuneralhome.com hosts the online registry.

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