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SECTION, Ala. — The journey to becoming “Miss Alabama” began more than 40 years ago for a Jackson County girl. That road is still taking her places today.

Sitting on the front porch of her Sand Mountain home in Section, Tammy Little Haynes remembers the 1979 summer day that changed her life. She had just graduated high school.

“I’m at the old Woolworth’s in Scottsboro checking out and this lady comes up and says, you need to be in Miss Goose Pond Colony. And I’m like, Miss what? And she’s like, Miss Goose Pond,” Tammy recalls with a chuckle, “And I said well, okay, I’ll do it.”

It was a preliminary to the Miss Alabama pageant and she won!

“The first time I ever attended “Miss Alabama”, I was in it,” Tammy told me. She didn’t win, but she looked great! “Standing there in my dress that mom made me that was itching me to death, that was gold scratchy material,” She said laughing.

She returned the next year as Miss DeKalb County. “This time I’m in a red dress that’s itching me that my mama made,” she said laughing, “And I’m singing New York, New York.”

That itch didn’t go away. She continued competing as Miss Cahaba Valley, then Miss Point Mallard. But just as she was ready to hang up her gowns, her brother talked her into giving it one last shot as Miss Hoover. Her mom made her another dress. “This time it doesn’t itch me,” she said with a laugh. She won!

But perhaps the most memorable moment was what her dad said during an interview after she was crowned Miss Alabama 1984. “He said I always just ask of Tammy what I ask of my old mule. And that’s just do her best. That’s all she can do. Do her best,” she said laughing. She did her best and it paid off.

It was a big moment for a small-town girl. “It was a good adventure, lots of friends and great memories. I was entertainment for my family,” she said, “It certainly led me to my career as an entertainer.”

Tammy traveled the world singing on cruise ships and fronting a country music band in Nashville. “I discovered during my year as Miss Alabama that I could entertain an audience, and I loved it,” she said, “And you could get paid for it.”

She became a hometown hero. Street and highway signs say it all until they came up missing. “Well, you know my very first ones that were put up,” she remembers fondly, “I think the first one was found in a trailer on the Auburn campus. Some guy had stolen it and put it in their trailer. I was a little flattered with that one so it’s okay.”

The others were lost to roadwork. But she never lost her drive. “I think the quality of being persistent and perseverance has served me well in becoming Miss Alabama,” she said, “And just later in life of not giving up on things that you want to achieve.” Even after being crowned Miss Alabama in 1984, she is still competing. “I know, it’s crazy isn’t it,” she said with a smile.

A friend suggested she enter the Ms. Senior Alabama pageant, which focuses on giving back. “I’m always ready to serve others,” Tammy told me, “My family, we’ve just always done that. My daddy put that out there in front of us. He lived it.”

Tammy won again! “First Miss Alabama to ever be Ms. Senior Alabama,” she said proudly. It’s a crowning achievement on a life serving the Alabamians she represents and entertaining them along the way.  She’ll represent Alabama in the Ms. Senior World Pageant in Biloxi, MS November 6-10.