What made Bess Myerson different to any other Miss America

Jan 6, 2015 at 12:00 a.m. ET
Image: Miss America Organization/Facebook.com

Groundbreaking Miss America winner, Bess Myerson, passed away at the end of 2014, according to the Miss America Organization.

Myerson, who was 90 years old at the time of her death, was the first and only Jewish Miss America and used her fame to fight for equality on behalf of all people, regardless of their race or religion. Even after her pageant reign, she continued to speak out and work with the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP and the Urban League, according to missamerica.org. Her philanthropy also extended to cancer research organizations and the Guild for the Blind.

"Sadly, we have just learned that our beloved Miss America 1945, Bess Myerson, passed away on December 14 at her home in Santa Monica, California," it said in a post on Monday on the Miss America official Facebook page. "Bess was a first in many respects. She was the first Jewish American Miss America, crowned on September 8, 1944 in Atlantic City. Bess was also the first Miss New York to be crowned Miss America, and she became the Miss America Organization's first scholarship recipient."

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Myerson used her scholarship to obtain graduate degrees at both Juilliard and Columbia University, after which she took her talents to television and appeared on mid-century programs such as The Big Payoff, I've Got A Secret and Candid Camera.

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The beauty queen was also politically active, running for the Democratic nomination for New York's Senate seat in 1980 and was appointed as commissioner of cultural affairs by former New York Mayor, Ed Koch.

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"Bess Myerson will always be remembered for her remarkable life-long achievements and for her unwavering commitment to serving others by demanding equality for all," the organization wrote on Facebook. "Through a life well lived, Miss America, Bess Myerson left this world a better place!"