Joan Williams, the longtime Pasadena resident who was named Miss Crown City 1958 but snubbed after it was learned Williams is African American, will be honored at a special gala dinner Saturday at the Western Justice Center in Pasadena.
Congresswoman Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, was expected to present awards to Williams, as well as fellow honorees restaurateur Robin Salzer for the free dinner program he sponsors at the Jackie Robinson Center and Villa-Parke Community Center, and Webster Guillory, tax assessor of Orange County and the first black person elected to county office.
The event is sponsored by the Pasadena-based nonprofit Men Educating Men About Health, MEMAH.
In 1958 Williams was selected by her coworkers at City Hall to represent Pasadena as Miss Crown City, which was a Rose Queen-like honor at the time. Some of the perks of that position included riding on the city’s float in the Rose Parade, cutting ribbons at store openings and participating in other civic events.
Williams has a light complexion, so many people thought she was Caucasian. She alleges that when the city found out that she was African American, they canceled the city’s float, called off her remaining public appearances and the mayor at the time refused to take a photo with her. After she returned to work, her city co-workers ostracized her.
The story about Williams being disrespected by the city, “Beauty and the Beasts,” by Justin Chapman, appeared in the Nov. 26 edition of the Pasadena Weekly. Chapman will introduce Williams at the MEMAH event.
“Unfortunately,” said MEMAH founder Jim Morris, “neither the city nor anyone from the city took action on this, never acknowledged [Williams] or reached out to her or apologized to her for that terrible incident in 1958. So we are going to honor her ourselves.”
Councilman John Kennedy will attend the event along with Council members Jacque Robinson, Steve Madison and Terry Tornek.
“I think this is an opportunity for the city of Pasadena to be bigger than its past to acknowledge that a wrong was committed and show that healing is important in building one community and just saying we are sorry for the injustice that occurred that probably would be sufficient for the family,” said Kennedy. “For the community, we have to insure that narrow-thinking individuals do not have sway in terms of what is good for Pasadena.”