Nellie suggested Dorthy enter the pageant to overcome her shyness. But when the lovely co-ed won the title of “Miss. Idaho,” her father initially refused to allow her to travel to Miami Beach, Florida. The twelve day pageant had been held there every year since 1952. Pompie, however, did not want his sheltered daughter exposed to the indignities of Southern racism. Yet Dorthy faced indignities at home in Pocatello. Every year the Miss Idaho winners received clothes and airfare from the state or local businesses. Dorthy received nothing. Recognizing that his daughter would face challenges because of her race in Idaho and across the nation, and with lobbying from Nellie, Pompie relented and surprised his daughter with four perfectly fitting outfits to wear while she competed in Miami.
Treated well in Miami, Dorthy was shocked to learn that the press did not follow the other contestants as they did her. And she was amused by whites who seemed surprised to find out she spoke fluent English and was not a foreigner.
Dorothy later became an award winning educator. She was a Los Angeles Reading Association’s Teacher of the Year in 1992, listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and nominated for the Disney Teacher of the Year Award in 2002. Dorthy Johnson has one daughter and is a new grandmother. She and her husband, Robert LeVels, reside in Long Beach, California.
Dorothy Johnson Le Vels died in Downey, California on April 13, 2017. She was 71.