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San Diego Royalty: Meet 'Mrs. America' from 1963

Marilyn Mitchell was a proud stay-at-home mom who was married with three children before taking home the crown.

SAN DIEGO — In 1963, Marilyn Mitchell was the talk of not just San Diego but the entire nation. So who is she? In this Zevely Zone, I went to Del Cerro to meet royalty.

"Marilyn Mitchell. This is your life," I said while playing News 8 footage on a laptop computer for a lovely 93-year old beauty queen. "Oh my goodness," said Marilyn. The black and white footage shows Marilyn stepping off a plane with her husband being mobbed by fans. 

Why, you ask? In 1963, San Diego welcomed home Mrs. America.

Credit: Marilyn Mitchell: Mrs. America 1963

"Have you ever seen this footage before?" I asked. Marilyn was mesmerized and said, "No, uh uh." Marilyn and her husband Lyle had just spent a week away from their three children for the first time. The footage shows them hugging their children. "Hi, how are you? How are you, kids? Hi honey. My little babies," said Marilyn.  

I said, "Look at all of the reporters and all of the cameras and you're doing a live interview."  Marilyn said, "I had just finished doing hundreds of them before I came home. That was easy."

Credit: Marilyn Mitchell: Mrs. America 1963

The News 8 footage shows a man hand Marilyn a trophy and another man said, "Marilyn this is a proud day for San Diego. We are very proud of you and proud of your achievement." 

Marilyn responded smooth as glass, "Well I am so pleased that you turned out believe me that is a real thrill."

After Marilyn won Mrs. California, she told everyone she had no interest in becoming a national beauty queen. "I said no way, I said thanks a lot I'm so pleased that you asked but no," said Marilyn. But the San Diego Woman's Club Juniors persisted, and Marilyn was off to Miami. I asked her, "Did you think you could win?" She told me, "No, but I did think I could make the top ten."

Credit: Marilyn Mitchell: Mrs. America 1963

Marilyn was 35 years old at the time and now at 93, she can still hardly believe the outcome.  "I will show you a picture of my reaction. My dentist loved it wide open mouth I was absolutely stunned," said Marilyn.  

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Not only by winning, but by the commitment of having to make appearances across America for an entire year. Marilyn says everywhere she went she tried to convince people she wasn't anything special. "I am an average homemaker and I kept telling people that," said Marilyn.

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Marilyn was paid for every appearance and said just like that crown, she wore the title of "stay-at-home-mom" with pride. "Sure, because that is what I was a homemaker I have many pictures in the kitchen. I was your everyday homemaker," said Marilyn.

Every step of the way, Marilyn's husband Lyle supported her fame. "When he came back to work, they started calling him Mr. America. He loved it and he sat down at his desk and they put a crown on him and gave him a cigar," she said.

Marilyn's children, Shelley, Rodney, Kirk, are all grown up now, but back then they were interviewed by News 8. "Rodney, does your mother help you very much in your activities?" asked the reporter. Rodney answered," Yes she does she helps me in my Brownie Troop." The reporter followed up, "I understand that you children consider your mother to be a very good cook. What are your favorite foods that she prepares?"  The kids responded, "Spare ribs. I like her apple pie. I like all of the steaks she makes."

"Oh that was nice, I've never seen that," said Marilyn. Which is exactly why we called this queen of class and begged her to share her San Diego story. "Memories, way back when," said Marilyn.  

Check out the News 8 vintage newsreel from 1963 below.

To see more, head to the News 8 Throwback playlist on YouTube

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