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Crown comes with life lesson

Being named 1985 queen was a bittersweet moment

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Vivian King and Marvin Cobbs are crowned Homecoming king and queen. 1986 Savitar photo

Vivian King, BJ ’87, describes being crowned 1985 Homecoming queen as a bittersweet experience and a life lesson. King, nominated by Delta Sigma Theta, and Marvin Cobbs, BS Ag ’85, nominated by Alpha Phi Alpha, were the first black couple to be crowned Mizzou Homecoming king and queen. Although they won the student vote, their crowning moment was met with mixed reaction.

Vivian remembers Homecoming day 1985 like it was yesterday. At the time, the king and queen were announced at a pregame alumni luncheon. King and Cobbs, the only black candidates, had gone to the same St. Louis high school, so King was ecstatic when she heard Cobbs’s name announced as king.

“I thought it was so great that he had won, but I also thought I’m probably not going to win. At that point, you kind of want to win but you know that being on court alone has been a great experience. When they called my name as queen, I was absolutely shocked. Marvin and I hugged each other, and it was a great moment. However, I think some of the alumni were not ready for two African-Americans to be king and queen.

“When we were announced at halftime, there was a spattering of boos. It was a little disheartening to hear that. It created quite the discussion on campus.”

But King doesn’t retell this story with bitterness. “Looking back on it, as disheartening as it was, it was a lesson in life. There will be people who like you and people who don’t like you for the color of your skin, the way you look or other reasons you can’t control. But the experience also gave me faith that there were many progressive people because we had lots of support from students on campus who voted for us.”

King, now the director of public affairs for Roundy’s Supermarkets in Milwaukee, says she wouldn’t trade anything for the experience. She says the teachable moment helped prepare her for the challenges she faced after college.

In 2010, King attended Homecoming for the first time since graduating. “I had the pleasure of having lunch with the queen candidates, and it was great to see the diversity in the court; they were such lovely young women,” says King, who plans to return again this year. “It’s great to see the growth in the campus and know that diversity is flourishing.”

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