A Southern lady, a loving spirit and a true beauty inside and out…the beloved Mrs. Imogene Erickson passed away this week at 80 years old after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Erickson put Yazoo City in the spotlight when she was crowned Miss Mississippi in 1957, later representing the state in the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J.
But to the Yazoo community, she was “Mrs. Imogene.” A social woman who embodied Southern manners and etiquette, she spoke softly and with love to everyone she knew and every stranger she met.
She was a Yazoo icon, a loving wife and mother, a faithful church member, a community servant and a true beauty.
Erickson was born on Nov. 22 in Augusta, Ga. to Charles and Marybelle Allen. Traveling all over the South, the Allen family made Yazoo City their home in 1951. She, along with her six siblings, lived on Main Street in downtown Yazoo City.
A few years later, Erickson was crowned Miss Yazoo City by Marie Cato in 1956. She went onto to claim the Miss Mississippi title in 1957.
Yazoo City rolled the red carpet out for the charming beauty queen.
“Pretty Imogene Allen will be honored by her hometown Yazoo City,” a newspaper article read. “A parade, an air show, a barbecue and a dance are being planned to celebrate the day. Imogene, carrying her Miss America doll, which was presented to her at the Miss Mississippi Pageant, will lead the parade in a convertible.”
Miss America 1957 Marion McKnight and former Governor Hugh White were among the special guests that day. The community was ecstatic for Erickson who won over the pageant judges with her natural beauty and modern jazz dance number, complete with a French dancer’s costume as well as a painting demonstration.
“Again, Yazoo County hit the jackpot with the crowning of Miss Imogene Allen as Miss Mississippi,” another news article read.
That same article said Erickson had “enough talent and poise” to represent the state in the upcoming Miss America Pageant in New Jersey.
“Yazoo has certainly contributed more than its share of beauty queens, and the envious reputation we are gaining thereby is an asset unequaled by another,” the article continues.
Dora Livingston Clark, a fellow Yazooan, was crowned Miss Mississippi in 1952.
“She was very sweet to me,” Erickson said about Clark in a previous interview with The Yazoo Herald. “She taught me how to walk and talk in the pageants.”
But Erickson always gave credit to God for her accomplishments, throughout her pageant days and beyond.
Erickson’s charm and grace hit the road with her Miss Mississippi title, often speaking at engagements and modeling at various functions.
But one of her fondest memories was appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show and meeting baseball legends Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.
She would later represent the state in the Miss America Pageant. And although she did not receive that title, Erickson didn’t care.
“I was so in love with John Erickson…I didn’t care,” she said.
She would later marry John Erickson, and they raised four children on Wolf Lake. A homemaker, she was also heavily involved in a variety of civic and volunteer groups. She was also a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Nancy Williams, a long-time friend, would often play golf with Erickson.
“She was always so much fun but competitive,” Williams said, with a laugh. “We had such a good time together.”
The Williams, Erickson, McGraw and King families would often vacation together.
“She was not like anyone else I have met in my life,” Williams said. “We would have so much fun on our vacations together.”
Williams said Erickson served as president of the Art Association for many years before talking her into assuming the role.
“She was such a talented artist, and I knew very little,” Williams said. “But I was so grateful to her for teaching me so many new things. I learned so much during that time.”
Williams said Erickson was active in Art in the Park, held at the Triangle Cultural Center.
“She was the heart and soul of that organization,” Williams said.
Erickson was an active member of the Four Seasons Garden Club. Club President Jeanne Santmyer said Erickson was always “so sweet.”
“She was always anxious to do her part with our garden club,” Santmyer reflects. “Anything that involved the garden club, she was always there to help.”
Erickson loved to socialize with the community, cook delicious meals, grow beautiful flowers and cheer for her favorite football team.
Yazoo had a true gem with the beautiful Mrs. Imogene. And her lasting memory will continue to bless the community with charm and grace, just as she would have liked it.