When Chandler Lawson won the Miss Tennessee crown Saturday night, the UTC graduate accomplished something few women have done in the pageant's 60-year history.
"Chandler was first runner-up last year, and there have not been very many runners-up who came back the next year and won," said Allison DeMarcus, Miss Tennessee business manager and a former state winner herself.
"There are probably less than five girls who have ever been able to accomplish that -- and it's very unusual that two of them would be from the same area," DeMarcus said.
Soddy-Daisy's Jamie Watkins Davenport, Miss Tennessee 2003, was the other.
The competition Saturday night was Lawson's third attempt to win Miss Tennessee. She was first runner-up last year as Miss Chattanooga 2011 and competed as Miss Scenic City in 2010. She is just the 11th Miss Chattanooga to win the title, according to the pageant's website.
"A year provides a lot of maturity, whether that be in time management, improving my song or on personal skills such as [the] interview," Lawson said Monday.
Yet she admits it was a "surreal moment" when, once again, it was down to Lawson and one other finalist waiting for the big announcement.
"Of course, you do think, 'I wonder if it's going to happen?' When it did, all these emotions just came to the forefront of my mind. I was so thrilled and honored," she said.
Lawson, 22, is a Tullahoma, Tenn., native who recently graduated summa cum laude from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in political science. At UTC, she was a member of the University Honors program, and she plans to attend the University of Tennessee School of Law after her Miss Tennessee reign.
She spent Monday having her official Miss Tennessee portrait made and picking up her complimentary car, one of the pageant's prizes. She will speak at several civic clubs and visit pageant sponsors in and around Jackson this week before heading to Nashville, where she said she will be "debriefed" on plans for her upcoming participation in the Miss America pageant.
Rodney Hullender, Miss Chattanooga co-executive director, noted that the televised finals of the Miss America pageant are set for Las Vegas on Jan. 12, Lawson's birthday.
While Lawson said she didn't put much stock in such signs, she added, "It's totally wonderful timing for me and an awesome birthday gift that my parents will celebrate with me in Las Vegas."
Lawson also said she doesn't think she fits the mold of the stereotypical "beauty queen" image.
"That's something I love about Miss Tennessee. A girl like me who is a self-proclaimed fisherman and lover of bluegrass music can be Miss Tennessee and wear the crown and be relatable," she said. "I think that's one of the strengths I bring to the crown is that I can get down with children, play outside with them and hopefully can make an impact on their lives."
DeMarcus said anyone wishing to book an appearance by the new Miss Tennessee should email email@example.com.
Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at 423-757-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.