Largely because of the activities of the now defunct Aryan Nations, there is a lingering perception nationally that Idaho is not a place that welcomes diversity. Statistically, it is not a very diverse state. According to the Census Bureau, African-Americans made up just .06% of the state during the most recent census in 2010. It was about the same in 1964, when an African-American woman from Pocatello was chosen as Miss Idaho.
Yes, right in the middle of the civil rights movement, Idaho sent a woman of color to the Miss USA pageant. Nineteen-year-old Dorthy Johnson was not the first African-American woman to compete in the pageant. That distinction went to Corinne Huff who served as an alternate for Miss Ohio in 1960. But Johnson was the first African-American semi-finalist in the pageant.
There have since been six African-American winners of the pageant, since. The first was Carole Gist, Miss Michigan, in 1990.
Idaho’s Dorthy Johnson would go on to become an award-winning educator. She was the 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 LeVels passed away in the town where she was born, Pocatello, in April 2017.