Emotional farewell as new Miss Troup is crowned

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2022

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By Shiann Sivell

It was an emotional farewell for Ansleigh Williams, the 2020 Miss Troup County winner, as she readied to relinquish her crown and title to the new Miss Troup County on Saturday. There were two people present in the Troup High School’s Fine Arts Auditorium that she thanked above all.

“It was the greatest honor to be your last Miss Troup County,” she said to Judy and Jim Neighbor, the Miss Troup County executive directors who revealed earlier Saturday night at the Miss Troup County/Miss Troup County Outstanding Teen pageant that they would be stepping down from the roles they’ve held for 46 years. “The one good thing that came out of COVID was that I got to be yours for two full years, and what a journey that has been.”

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For the Neighbors, those 46 years were full of countless beauty pageants across the country, long days of makeup and hair products and decade after decade of acting as mentors, chauffeurs and surrogate grandparents for the dozens of young ladies seeking the Miss Troup crowns.

Singleton described the Miss Troup experience as a family dynamic, and the Neighbors made her a part of that family when she won her competition in 2020. She affectionately calls Jim ‘Pops.’

“Jim and Judy shared with me that they joined the [Miss America Organization], so that they could gain as many daughters as possible. And today they have over 90 daughters,” she said. “As soon as the crown was first placed on my head, I turned and looked to Pops who said, ‘welcome to the family, Little Bit.’ From then on, I have been Pops’ Little bit, and I am so proud of it. From that moment on, I didn’t just have a crown on my head, I had a second family with Jim and Judy.”

Trina Pruitt, who was Miss Troup County in 1990 and the Miss Georgia scholarship competition CEO, directed the Neighbor’s sendoff at during the pageant, thanking them for their years of service to the community.

“They have given up their time and love to every young lady they have met,” she said. “There’s not enough thanks in the world for what they have done.”

Williams and 2020 Miss Troup County Outstanding Teen winner Isabella Singleton accompanied the Neighbors’ onstage where they received a standing ovation from the crowd, a bouquet of tulips and kisses on the cheeks from the ladies.

Judy later said she had not expected Williams’ kind words toward her and her husband.

“I’m glad she said that, we’re grateful for it,” she said.

Judy said she was connected with the Miss America world through her cousin Dorothy Johnson, a former Miss Georgia winner. She and Jim began helping with the Miss Troup County competition in the 1970s while Jim was a member of the LaGrange Lions Club, who was in charge of running the Miss Troup County pageant. Throughout the years, she and Jim and kept in touch with several girls from previous competitions. Many still visit, she said, and they’ve traveled to several states to visit them in return.

“They call us their grandmamma, or mama and pop-pop,” she said.

“It’s brought us a great deal of joy to watch to see how far they’ve come and what skills they’ve learned … and how they’ve grown and matured,” she said.

Judy said the reason for her and her husband’s retirement was a mix of health and age-related reasons. Judy plans to continue to participate in the Miss Troup competition as a consultant and in any other role that is needed of her.