Meredith Howard Harless

Meredith Howard Harless Biography

Meredith Howard Harless (born September 6, 1909 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma-June 19, 1996) was a performer and Miss America contestant who earned fame with her twin sister, Virginia, at the Miss Tulsa beauty pageant in 1927 when they were both elected to win the contest. A winning coin flip earned Meredith a trip to the Miss America pageant of 1928 where she finished as a runner-up. Her experiences at Miss America led to a five-year stint as a performer with the Ziegfeld Follies, where she worked with such stars as Eddie Cantor, Fred Astaire and Ed Wynn.

In 1935, Meredith joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in Hollywood, California working in public relations, advertising, and fashion, working directly with Louis B. Mayer. While at MGM, Meredith continued to model with her sisters, Virginia and Mary, who starred in several films for MGM at that time. From 1937 to 1941, Meredith took a job with Crowell-Collier publishing in Washington, D.C. with their advertising department. In addition to her work in advertising, Meredith wrote two syndicated columns: "At Random" under her own name, and "Selective Tuning" under the name Jean Abbey on the Washington, D.C. social scene and women's fashions. Already well known in Washington as a writer and radio commentator, Meredith made a bigger splash further west in Arizona with her marriage to Arizona Congressman Richard F. Harless.

With the outbreak of World War II, Meredith concentrated on her writing and radio career with the Hecht Broadcasting Company. In 1940, she became the first woman to broadcast a presidential inauguration, and the first woman to have her own radio commentary show. In addition to her broadcasting work, Meredith volunteered with the United States Treasury Department to raise a total of $250 million of war bonds, worked with the Civilian Defense Home Hospitality Committee, the Stage-Door Canteen, and the Russian War Relief Committee. In addition to her wartime charitable work, Meredith founded the United Nations Club in December 1941. With the participation ambassadors of 58 countries, the United Nations Club became one of the major social organizations promoting the allied war effort and post-war charitable initiatives of the United States.

In 1948, Meredith returned to Arizona to campaign for her husband's bid for governor. After a brief stint with KTAR radio during the campaign, in 1949 she became the producer of "A Look Behind the News" for CBS in Phoenix, where she also was a regular commentator. For the next several years Meredith would write, produce and star in several radio and television programs for stations throughout the valley, including "Arizona Close-Ups" for NBC and "Arizona Caravan" for ABC, where she worked as Public Relations Director. Her efforts earned her Arizona's Outstanding Woman award in 1951.

Meredith continued to work in local Arizona broadcasting as well as participating in local charities such as the Salvation Army, where she served as Vice President for the national organization, and Washington D.C. organizations including the Washington Fashion Group, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Business and Professional Women's Club. She actively worked in many charitable organizations and local community efforts until her death on June 19, 1996 at the age of 86.


Meredith Harless Papers (Mss. 167). Arizona Collection. Department of Archives and Special Collections. University Libraries. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.

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