Crowning Achievements

April 2015
Written By: 
Jennifer Boyd
Photographs by: 
Scott Smallin
These past beauty queens continue to wow us with their inner and outer beauty

Although each of these four beauty queens has since passed their titles down to their successors, they continue to sparkle and shine as brightly as the stones that once adorned their crowns. They have weathered personal storms with the kind of grace and elegance that only a true queen would exude in the face of adversity. They continue to inspire others with their charm and willingness to change the world—one judge at a time.

The All-American Beauty
Barbara Wallace Graham, an Ohio native and self-proclaimed tomboy, cleans up very well. When the owners of The Foxy Lady clothing store asked her to enter the Mrs. South Carolina Pageant, she said, “Go big or go home!”

The pageant was held in Newberry, South Carolina, in June of 2007, where Barbara won the crown of Mrs. South Carolina 2007. A few months later, she attended the Mrs. America Pageant in Las Vegas. She would make the top ten and meet a new friend and future business partner, Denise Yates, who was Mrs. Kentucky.

She and Denise created a successful hat line, called Social Hattitude. Their product is sold worldwide and has changed the course of their lives.  

Barbara Graham’s devotion to the Make-A-Wish Program has also brought her much joy and fulfillment. She donated 12 years to fulfilling the wishes of those with a life-threatening medical condition. Barbara is married to Kerry Graham and also owns B-Z Designs.

“I have experienced a moment in time that I will never forget,” she says. “Winning the title of Mrs. South Carolina changed my life and helped me use my platform to influence others to see there is more to life than ourselves.”

Her new platform is encouraging people to become organ donors. Her brother recently received a liver transplant and she has made it a personal mission in her lifetime to see everyone in America become an organ donor.

An Elegant Beauty
Sandra Flowers Floyd Hardwick has grace and elegance that would have made Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stop in her tracks and take notice. Reared in Loris, she was crowned the Loris High School Homecoming Queen of 1962. Her escort, Steven Hardwick, would become her partner and husband for 27 years. Although their marriage would end in a divorce, they remain close friends and are committed to their three children and four grandchildren.  

In high school, Sandra was as graceful and beautiful as she is today. She was a cheerleader and was also Miss FFA Sweetheart and County Sweetheart her sophomore year.

After graduating from high school, she attended Campbell College and the University of South Carolina to pursue a degree in education. She would eventually receive her funeral director’s license and join her husband at the family’s business, Hardwick’s Funeral Home. Her compassion for each family they served during their time of grief became her trademark. She cradled hundreds of families who were dealing with grief and sorrow, while becoming a true friend to many of the community.

Today, Sandra lives in Cherry Grove. She is an avid traveler and attributes her confidence with winning the title of homecoming queen and the FFA Sweetheart crown. She wouldn’t change a single moment of growing up in Loris, saying, “we lived in a wholesome time when I was young. I am honored to tell people where I learned life’s lessons.”

A Confident Beauty
Diantha Haynes Vaught is a true Southern steel magnolia. On a whim, she accepted the invitation to enter the first ever Mrs. Watermelon Festival Pageant that was held in her hometown of Fair Bluff, North Carolina, in 1989. With the support of her three children and husband, Billy Vaught, she stole the hearts of the judges. She took home the crown that evening, creating lifelong memories as the first Mrs. Fair Bluff Watermelon Queen. She proudly represented her town and state in parades, from the Azalea Festival in Wilmington to The Yam Festival parade in Tabor City.   

Diantha resides in Loris with her husband of 44 years, her three children and seven grandchildren. She and her family recently lost her niece, Tiffany Moore Causey, and brother-in-law, Jeff Moore, to cancer within one year. “The past few years have been such an emotional and difficult time for our family,” she says.  “We depend on our faith to get us through the difficult days.”     

When Diantha speaks of her pageant title, she glows with pride. “My husband and children urged me many years ago to enter the first Watermelon Festival Pageant. Even though I was nearly 40, I am proud to have set the standards for future queens,” she says.

A Compassionate Beauty
Martha Cooper Boyd has always walked to the beat of her own drummer, and it came as  no surprise when she  won the Miss Mt. Vernon and the Little Miss Loris pageants in 1954 and 1955, respectively. Although her dress was not as frilly as those of the other contestants, her confidence was mesmerizing to the judges.

Martha grew up on a farm in rural Horry County, where she excelled in cheerleading and walking the pageant stage. In 1959, she was stricken with polio and was told she may never walk again. She eventually overcame the potentially debilitating disease.

She remembers sitting in the beauty salon getting glammed up for the Miss FFA pageant in November 1963 when the news rang out that John F. Kennedy had been shot. Although she was first runner-up that evening, she will forever remember that afternoon as the day innocence was lost and the world as she knew it would never be the same.

After graduation, Martha married and moved to Germany. After 14 years of marriage and a painful divorce, she met the love of her life, Ted Boyd. She has worked for Horry County Family Court at the Conway Courthouse for almost 20 years and devotes every day to helping others get their lives back on track. She is also an animal rights advocate and spends much of her spare time finding homes for dogs and cats.

She attributes her love of pageants with granting her the confidence she has today. “Walking across those stages gave me a feeling of self-worth and having the spotlight placed on me helped me to realize I matter in life,” she says.  “Those were the best years of my life, and I will treasure those moments, forever.”  


Photographs courtesy of Barbara Wallace Graham and Sandra Flowers Floyd Hardwick