If you’re traveling in Section, Alabama, just east of Huntsville and between Fort Payne and Scottsboro, chances are good you’ve driven down a portion of Highway 35 called Tammy Little Drive, named after Miss Alabama 1984.
And if you spend any time in Section, chances are good you might just run into the drive’s namesake, Tammy Little Haynes, who has lived in the small community most of her life.
There, she has married, raised a family, continued her entertaining career and started another, and, in August, won the Ms. Senior Alabama crown.
“They sent me an email saying, ‘You made history,’” Haynes says. “’You’re the first Miss Alabama to become Ms. Senior Alabama.’”
Though she had won Jackson County’s Junior Miss in 1979, Tammy Little was not a “pageant girl” and had no inkling she’d ever put on a pageant dress again.
“I came back to Section and was checking out at the old Woolworth’s and a lady said I should enter Miss Goosepond, which was a Miss Alabama preliminary,” Haynes says. “I competed that first night, and I didn’t want to go back the second night. I thought some of the girls were not so kind. But I went back, and I won the pageant.”
She moved on to the Miss Alabama Pageant at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.
“It was pretty overwhelming,” Haynes recalls. “I had never even been to a Miss Alabama Pageant. I was so naïve. But I had such fun. We stayed in the Hyatt House, which was so glamorous to me. I loved everything about it.”
Her talent was another story.
“I’m a belter, and there’s nothing shy about me, but I sang ‘Theme From Ice Castles,’ wearing a gold dress that my mother made me,” she says with a laugh. “Why in the world?”
The second year was much the same, although she changed her song to “New York, New York.” “That year, instead of a gold metallic dress that itched me, my mother made me a red metallic one that itched me,” she says.
The third year she entered Miss Alabama, singing “City Lights,” Little won the swimsuit preliminary and placed as fourth runner-up.
A fourth try saw her make the top 10, but by then, Little, graduating from Jacksonville State University, was finished. Or at least she thought she was.
“I wasn’t sad or upset, but I really thought I had done what I could do at Miss Alabama,” Haynes says.
She auditioned for shows at Six Flags Over Georgia and Opryland, making both casts, and was getting ready to join the Crystal Pistol show at Six Flags where one of her songs would be “Hit Me With a Hot Note” from “Sophisticated Ladies.”
Her brother urged her to enter Miss Alabama one last time and sing that song. She did, and at age 23, on her fifth try, Little won the crown, representing the state at the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“I’m glad that I participated in it, and I think it’s the reason I was able to go on making a living at what I wanted to do, traveling the world as an entertainer,” she says. “Every year I competed, it paid for a year of college. It also gave me training on how to be an entertainer and opened my eyes to the fact I could make a living doing that.”
Traveling the world
And entertain Tammy Little did.
After a stint in the Miss America Showstoppers, a pageant-related group that performed at different functions, she fronted a country music band that opened for Diamond Rio and Vern Gosdin.
She performed at Opryland, and after a six-month contract on a cruise ship, she developed her own show. Based in New York, she headlined on a number of cruise lines and performed in the Catskills, the Hamptons and Florida, among many other places. Tours took her to Japan, China, Europe, the South Pacific, the Caribbean, Alaska and Nova Scotia.
“I traveled the world and got paid for it,” she says. “I loved it.”
What she tired of was New York, and in 1991, she moved back to Section. The next year, she married her husband, Glen, and they’ve raised three children, Hannah, Jeremiah and Caleb. She continued to teach voice lessons and speak and perform throughout the state, and for the past five years, she’s been working for Comfort Care Hospice and Home Health.
Ms. Senior Alabama
Though she has returned to emcee the Miss Alabama Pageant a couple of times, Haynes was certain her pageant years were over.
“Lord, no,” she says, when asked if she was missing the pageant life. “I never considered myself a pageant girl.”
But after urging from a former Ms. Senior Alabama contestant, she began exploring it.
“I read about it, and I liked the mission and what it stood for,” says Haynes, who turned 60 on May 1. “It’s Christian-oriented.” With a July 1 deadline looming, Haynes entered on June 30, with her office, Comfort Care, sponsoring her.
Her plans to get ready in July and August were quickly derailed. Her son had emergency appendix surgery, and her brother-in-law was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), which had taken the life of her father in 2001.
“But the very reason I didn’t want to do it is the very reason I did it,” Haynes says. “It’s all about giving and serving. Even though physically my body was ready, my heart is always ready to serve.”
Her mission in her new role is to spread the word both about ALS and hospice benefits available to those facing end-of-life decisions.
“I want to share with others and educate people that if you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal disease, there’s help for your family and to enhance your quality of life,” Haynes says. “I hope people will reach out to book me at church or other meetings.”
Haynes will spread that word even further when she competes in Ms. Senior World in Biloxi, Mississippi, in November.
Until then, she’ll be working in Section, where she lives just a mile off of Tammy Little Drive.
“It’s been there for 37 years,” she says. “I told the mayor, who goes to church with me, that winning Ms. Senior Alabama ought to do me for another 37 years.”