On a dare, Pat entered a pageant at Jefferson Beach and was crowned "Miss Michigan." She came to Atlantic City in 1939 and graced the stage in the Marine Ballroom of Atlantic City's famed Steel Pier. Her prize was The Miss America trophy. After winning the title, and without having a travel companion, Pat toured the country making personal appearances prior to World War II, and speaking to audiences around the nation about patriotism and boosting the country’s morale. She was lovingly nicknamed "The Long-Stemmed American Beauty".
In 1948, Pat married Robin Harris and for years they worked together as traveling editors of the Hearst Newspapers. They had two children, Amanda and Stephen, along with two loving grandsons.
Pat was a champion of St. Jude's Children's Hospital, and charities concerning animal welfare.
Reflecting on the Miss America title, Pat would fondly say, "We were the first. We set the pattern for the others to come, and we've all retained a quality that sets us apart.”
On behalf of the Miss America Organization we extend our heartfelt sympathies and our prayers to Pat’s family. We will forever treasure the memories of Miss America 1939 Patricia Donnelly Harris who helped build a lasting tradition that has continued to set us apart and has helped inspire new generations.