Fort Smith native Lt. Madison Marsh, a distinguished Southside High School alumna, recently made headlines by winning the coveted title of Miss America 2024. A Harvard graduate and former United States Air Force officer, Marsh, who hails from Fort Smith, competed as Miss Colorado in the prestigious scholarship pageant held on Sunday, January 14.
Having previously secured the title of Miss U.S. Air Force Academy in May 2022, Marsh is not only celebrated for her achievements in the pageant but is also well-known for her philanthropic endeavors in the Fort Smith region. Alongside her family—father Mike and sister Heidi—Marsh has been a driving force behind Whitney’s Race, an event dedicated to her late mother, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 41, just ten months after her diagnosis.
The Whitney Marsh Foundation, established in 2019, has raised nearly $230,000 for cancer research. The foundation’s contributions include $85,000 to the MD Anderson Pancreatic Cancer Moonshot program, $95,000 each to Mercy Fort Smith and Baptist Fort Smith, and a $40,000 grant to Mercy Fort Smith for pancreatic cancer screening testing.
During her fall 2023 visit to Fort Smith, Marsh expressed gratitude to the local school system for its unwavering support during challenging times. In a district report, she credited Southside High School for shaping the person she is today, highlighting the pivotal role played by professors, students, and Principal Jeff Prewitt in her journey.
Principal Prewitt praised Marsh’s resilience, stating, “We are thrilled to witness Madison’s achievements. Her ambition and determination set her apart as a student, and her ability to overcome challenging circumstances speaks volumes about her character. We look forward to her future accomplishments and are immensely proud of her.”
In a recent interview with the Harvard Crimson, Marsh shared her aspirations for young girls to draw inspiration from her story. She emphasized breaking limits, stating, “There is more than the sky. I fly planes up there, people go there, women go there; therefore, for me, there are no limits since women can do anything.”
Marsh’s commitment to cancer research has garnered support from U.S. Representative Steve Womack, R-Rogers, who served as her mentor. Upon her victory in Miss America, Representative Womack congratulated Marsh and highlighted her inspirational narrative.
At 22 years old, Marsh is pursuing a master’s degree in the Harvard Kennedy School’s public policy department while serving as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. Her historic win as the first active-duty Air Force officer to be crowned Miss America reflects her dedication and determination.
The Miss America Scholarship Foundation, established in 1921, continues to empower women by providing education and scholarships. Marsh’s triumph marks a significant milestone, showcasing that individuals can excel in diverse fields, breaking barriers and inspiring generations to come.