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Miss Crown City 1958 to ride lead float in 2015 Rose Parade

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Joan Williams, 82, holds a portrait of herself as Pasadena's Miss Crown City in 1958.
Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star News
Joan Williams, 82, stands with a portrait of herself as Pasadena's Miss Crown City in 1958.

After being denied a spot in the 1958 Rose Parade due to her race, Joan Williams will ride in the parade's lead float in 2015.

One inspiring person who will be riding in the 2015 Rose Parade is Joan Williams. She was originally set to participate in the parade back in 1958 as a representative of the city of Pasadena. But she was later denied a spot because of her race -- Ms. Williams is African American. 

“I went through all the promotion for it, and they had me pose for a portrait, and I actually had a crown placed on my head,” she said. “Then when Pasadena’s local daily paper, the Pasadena Daily Independent, came to my home to interview me in that setting, they met my family, and they met my brown-skinned husband. And after that, everything went downhill.”

Williams said she was shocked.

“I couldn’t image a city with the prestige of Pasadena even doing such a thing. But it was 1958, and Pasadena is still a conservative city, but at that point, they were a very conservative city, and it was very disappointing.”

Williams suspects that pressure from the community lead to her appearance in this year’s parade. But perhaps the timing is appropriate for Williams' Rose Parade ride is appropriate, considering the recent racial tensions that have taken the nation's spotlight.

“Actually, I think it’s probably more important today that they are doing it than it would have been in 1958,” she said. “In 1958, I would have just been a queen sitting on a float. In this era, it is more meaningful because it shows that, I think, in some areas, people are becoming better informed about racial differences, and that we all really are the same. We’re human beings who need to be treated fairly.”

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