Did You Know a Miss USA Winner from Wichita Falls, Texas Was Dethroned for Cheating?
I'm your guy for finding weird Wichita Falls history and here is an interesting fact from WAY back in the day.
How Did I Discover Mary Leona Gage from Wichita Falls, Texas?
So I stumbled upon this video of a grave site for a woman named Mary Leona Gage, who I had never heard of. The video claims she was born in Wichita Falls, Texas. So I decided to look her up. Turns out she was born in Longview, Texas, but moved to Wichita Falls when she was a toddler. She spent the majority of her childhood in Wichita Falls. Sadly, Mary doesn't have the happiest story in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Mary Falls in Love with a Man at Sheppard Air Force Base
So Mary's Wichita Falls story starts with an airmen named Gene Ennis who was 24-years-old at the time when he met Mary. Problem with this? Mary was THIRTEEN-YEARS-OLD. Well Mary actually got pregnant from Mr. Ennis and he was shipped out from Sheppard Air Force Base. This is important to the story later. A year later, Mr Ennis returned to Wichita Falls and reunited with Mary and moved her to Maryland. The two would get married and Mary would have a second child with him at the age of sixteen. Sadly the marriage did not work out between the two.
Mary Starts a Modeling Career
After her marriage falls apart, a doctor suggests she gets a job to take her mind off of things. She gets a job at a dress shop in Maryland and local modeling agency notices Mary's good looks. They convince her to enter the Miss Maryland Contest in 1957 and guess what? Mary wins!
Check Out Some Footage of Her Below in the Pageant
Next Up Miss USA?
Obviously once you win the pageant for your state, you go up against all the other states. Well guess what, Mary won Miss USA in 1957. The first ever from Maryland to do so. You would think this would be a happy story for Mary at this point in her life, but sadly things would come crashing down. You see Miss USA had several rules in the 1950's and Mary broke three of them .
Why Was Mary Dethroned?
Mary officially had her crown taken away and given to the runner up which was Miss Utah Charlotte Sheffield. As I mentioned earlier, Mary was once married. Miss USA could not be married back in the day. Mary had kids, Miss USA could not have children. Probably the biggest factor in all of this, Mary was 18 and Miss USA had to be at least 21. Mary would be the first ever woman in Miss USA history to have her crown taken away from her.
Mary Goes Into Acting
Mary drops her first name as she goes into Hollywood and simply goes as Leona Gage in hoping folks would not get the connection from the Miss USA controversy. She would get a few roles throughout the years. Probably her most famous is in 'Tales of Terror' which are three different short stories from Edgar Allen Poe(who died in Maryland). Leona Gage would play Morella in the movie.
Tales of Terror Trailer
She Wrote a Book About Her Life
In 1965 after her acting career was not working out. She wrote a book called, "My Name is Leona Gage, Will Somebody Please Help Me?" Definitely a cry for help in the book as she talks about her life and everything she went through over the years. Including drugs and suicide attempts after the hate she received for the Miss USA controversy.
Although not born in Wichita Falls, Texas. Mary's life did take a turn in our city. She would live out her days in California, passing away at the age of 71 in 2010. Just another strange Wichita Falls story I stumbled upon today.