Jeanne Robertson

Jeanne Flinn Swanner Robertson (/nj/;[3] September 21, 1943 – August 21, 2021) was an American athlete, teacher, humorist, motivational speaker,[2] YouTube personality, and Miss North Carolina 1963.

Jeanne Robertson
Performing onstage in Charlottesville, Virginia, April 2012
Jeanne Flinn Swanner

(1943-09-21)September 21, 1943
DiedAugust 21, 2021(2021-08-21) (aged 77)
EducationAuburn University
  • Humorist
  • speaker
  • author
Years active1963–2021
Height6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Walter Bowline
(m. 1965, div. early 1970s)

Jerry Robertson
(m. 1974; died 2021)
Beauty pageant titleholder
TitleMiss North Carolina 1963
Hair colorWhite[1] (formerly blond)[2]
Miss America 1964

Early lifeEdit

Jeanne Flinn Swanner was born at the Naval Hospital Boston in Chelsea, Massachusetts and raised in Graham, North Carolina,[4][2] one of three daughters. According to one of her YouTube videoclips, not only was she taller than sisters Katherine and Andrea, she was also especially tall as a youth, growing to 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) by age 13.[5] She was an avid basketball player.[2]

Former Miss North Carolinas gathered at the Pageant's 75th Anniversary. Robertson is in the center of the back row.

Pageant participantEdit

In 1963, at age 19, she was named Miss North Carolina[6][7] and went on to be named Miss Congeniality in that year's Miss America competition.[8][2][9] As of 2021, Jeanne Swanner, at 6 foot 2, is still the tallest contestant ever in the Miss America pageant.[10] Robertson credited her reign as the catalyst for her career.[11][12]

Following her Miss North Carolina reign, Robertson used her scholarship to fund her college education at Auburn University, where she majored in physical education, joined Alpha Gamma Delta,[13] and played college basketball.[2][14] Robertson graduated in 1967, [15] and in 1990 she was inducted as an alumni member of the Omicron Delta Kappa Circle at Auburn University.[16]


Robertson taught physical education for eight years in North Carolina.[14][17]

Although she began her public speaking career with her pageant title, Robertson achieved much more national attention as a humorist and speaker. Her anecdotes have been broadcast regularly on satellite radio comedy channels, including XM Radio's Laugh USA, Sirius Radio's Blue Collar Comedy and its Family Comedy Channel,[15][2] and Laugh Break. Her popularity soared, however, in 2009 after a handful of humorous clips from her talks became popular videos.[12][2] Robertson distinguished between a humorist, which she considered herself, and a comedian, stating, "The humorist weaves the longer stories with a point. We don't go 'after' anybody. I'm telling my life."[8]

In 1980 she was designated a Certified Speaking Professional by the National Speakers Association, and served as the association's president in 1985.[15] She was also a Golden Gavel award-winning Toastmaster.[2][15][18]

On April 29, 2008, she spoke at the White House for National Volunteer Week to honor the 1,300 volunteers who donate time to work at the White House.[15]

Honors and awardsEdit

  • National Speakers Association Speaker Hall of Fame (inducted in 1981)[15]
  • National Speakers Association Cavett Award (1989); first woman to receive the award[15]
  • Omicron Delta Kappa (inducted in 1990 as an alumna at Auburn University)
  • Toastmasters International Golden Gavel Award (1998)[15]
  • North Carolina Press Association North Carolinian of the Year (2001)[15]

Graham Historical Museum, in her hometown of Graham, North Carolina, features a permanent exhibit, Jeanne Swanner Robertson.[19]

Personal lifeEdit

Jeanne married Walter Bowline III in 1965; they had one son and divorced in the early 1970s.[3] In 1974, she married Jerry Robertson,[20] a graduate of Duke University where, at 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) tall[20] and on an athletic scholarship,[21] he played on its basketball team, serving as its captain in 1959.[22][2] Jerry received his master's degree and doctorate at the University of North Carolina;[21] he was an educator and principal, eventually serving as superintendent of Burlington City Schools, and later working in business.[2][23][24] In her performances, Jeanne would frequently refer to him as "Left Brain", or sometimes "LB".[20][23] They were married until his death in June 2021.[23][24]

Robertson's son, Walter Bailey "Beaver" Bowline, is a 1989 graduate of Elon University, where Jeanne was a trustee.[15][1] Two of Jeanne's grandchildren also attended Elon.[25] Jeanne and Jerry Robertson were both members of Elon University's Phoenix Club, which supports the athletic program, [15] and the university's track and field complex is named after the couple.[25][26]

Robertson was a member of the Methodist church.[27] She said her favorite television series was The Andy Griffith Show.[4] Her 1995 book, Mayberry Humor Across the USA, furthers her connection to Griffith's show.


On August 12, 2021, it was announced that some of Robertson's future engagements had been canceled due to a "serious but non-COVID-related" illness. She died at her home in Burlington, North Carolina on August 21, 2021, at age 77.[28][29]


Robertson authored four books:[2][14]

  • Humor: The Magic of Genie: Seven Potions for Developing a Sense of Humor (1989) Rich Publishing Company, ISBN 9780960725694
  • Mayberry Humor Across the USA (1995) Rich Publishing Company, ISBN 9780927577021
  • Don't Let the Funny Stuff Get Away (1998) Rich Publishing Company, ISBN 9780927577038
  • Don't Bungee Jump Naked And Other Important Stuff (2020) Jeanne Robertson, ISBN 9780578668611

Audio and video mediaEdit

Robertson's performances have been recorded on both DVD and CD, with nine titles currently available: [30]

  • Rocking Humor
  • Fabulously Funny
  • Looking for Humor
  • Just for Fun
  • Flat Out Funny
  • Southern Style
  • Talkin' Funny
  • Not Just for Laughs
  • Here She Is

Many short segments of her speeches (individual stories, outtakes, etc) are also available on Jeanne's YouTube channel, as well as recordings of her 2020–2021 livestream series "Live from the Back Porch".[31]


  1. ^ a b Robertson, Jeanne. "Don't Mess with Teenage Hussies". Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Overman, Ogi (April 30, 2013). "50 years later, Miss Congeniality more popular than ever before". Jamestown News. Retrieved January 10, 2017.[dead link]
  3. ^ a b Williams, Annabelle (August 27, 2021). "Jeanne Robertson, 77, Down-Home Humorist With a Pageant Past, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved August 27, 2021. [Her] first name was pronounced Jeannie
  4. ^ a b Robertson, Jeanne. "NEW! Jeanne Robertson Left Brain vs Intruder - HILARIOUS!!!". Retrieved January 9, 2017.[dead YouTube link]
  5. ^ Robertson, Jeanne. "Don't Trick or Treat Without the Right Costume". Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  6. ^ "Memory Lane - Where's My Crown?". Southeast Lifestyle. Archived from the original on August 17, 2013.
  7. ^ "Miss America 1964 Candidates". Miss America. September 5, 2018. Retrieved August 22, 2021. North Carolina — Jeanne Flinn Swanner
  8. ^ a b Gordon, Jean (January 26, 2013). "Humorist Robertson coming to Foundation". The Daily Courier. Forest City, North Carolina. p. A1.
  9. ^ Morrisey, Brittany Ann (March 2020). "Miss Congeniality". Orlando Family Magazine. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  10. ^ "Miss North Carolina 1963". Miss North Carolina. Retrieved August 22, 2021. ... nineteen-year-old 6′ 2 Jeanne Swanner of Graham played the ukulele in a comedy sketch to capture the title. She won Miss Congeniality at both the Miss North Carolina and Miss America pageants and remains the tallest contestant ever to compete in the Miss America pageant.
  11. ^ "Meet Jeanne Robertson — North Carolina Public Radio WUNC". Retrieved February 15, 2010.
  12. ^ a b Courter, Barry (February 17, 2012). "Funny and smart - at 68, Jeanne Robertson finds second vocation as comedian". Chattanooga Times Free Press. p. 57.
  13. ^ "Appreciating Sisterhood". Alpha Gamma Delta Quarterly (Summer 2018): 26. July 26, 2018.
  14. ^ a b c "Jeanne Robertson, North Carolina humorist, dies at 77". Charlotte Observer. Associated Press. August 22, 2021. Retrieved August 25, 2021.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Anderson, Dan (April 30, 2008). "Elon trustee Jeanne Robertson is featured speaker at White House event". Elon University. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  16. ^ "Notable Members". Omicron Delta Kappa. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  17. ^ Ellis, Rosemary (February 4, 1990). "The value of humor: making life bearable". The Press of Atlantic City. p. G1.
  18. ^ "Toastmasters International Honors Nido Qubein With Golden Gavel". Toastmasters International Media Center. Toastmasters International. Retrieved August 25, 2021. The Golden Gavel is the most prestigious award offered by Toastmasters International, ... Past recipients include Jeanne Robertson, Les Brown, Art ...
  19. ^ "Graham Historical Museum". Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  20. ^ a b c Robertson, Jeanne. "Left Brain is in the Building". Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  21. ^ a b Robertson, Jeanne. "Don't send a man to the grocery store!". Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  22. ^ Overman, Ogi (February 17, 2017). "Once you've given your heart to a school (Duke), rationality goes out the window". Greensboro News and Record. Retrieved August 22, 2021. ...Jerry, was a member of the Duke men’s basketball team (and was to become the captain of the '59 team). .... As a side note, Jerry went on to marry Jeanne Swanner, Miss North Carolina of 1963 and Miss Congeniality of the Miss America Pageant, now a nationally acclaimed comedienne and author, and he became superintendent of Burlington City Schools.
  23. ^ a b c Nambiar, Prerna (August 22, 2021). "Who was Jeanne Robertson's husband Jerry aka Left Brain?". HITC. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  24. ^ a b "Jerry Robertson, Loyal Supporter Of Elon Athletics, Passes Away". Elon University Athletics. June 9, 2021. Retrieved August 22, 2021.
  25. ^ a b Anderson, Dan (August 22, 2021). "Death of Elon University Trustee Jeanne Robertson". Elon University. Retrieved August 25, 2021.
  26. ^ Anderson, Dan (October 31, 2014). "Elon names track and field complex in honor of Jerry and Jeanne Robertson". Elon University.
  27. ^ Crim, Linda "MissDazey" (June 5, 2012). "Evangel University Chapel". Archived from the original on January 16, 2017. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  28. ^ "'All the angels are laughing': NC humorist dies unexpectedly at 77". WRAL-TV. August 21, 2021. Retrieved August 21, 2021.
  29. ^ "Jeanne Robertson, North Carolina humorist, dies at 77". Associated Press. August 22, 2021. Retrieved August 25, 2021.
  30. ^ Robertson, Jeanne. "Humor Store". Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  31. ^ Robertson, Jeanne. "JeanneRobertson". Retrieved August 22, 2021.

External linksEdit