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Miss America Pageant Apologizes to Vanessa Williams

Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell, left, reacts with Miss South Carolina Daja Dial, center, and Miss Oklahoma Georgia Frazier after being named Miss America 2016, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015.

Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell was crowned the new Miss America Sunday night in Atlantic City, beating out contestants from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Judges made their decision in part based on Cantrell's superb opera performance.

But, the pageant's apology to a former winner who was dethroned was one of the most anticipated moments of the evening.

Pageant executive chairman Sam Haskell stood on stage with actress/singer Vanessa Williams and said "You have lived your life in grace and dignity and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned… I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be.”

Haskell also apologized to Helen Williams, Vanessa's mother, who was in the audience, in the televised event. The elder Williams was near tears amid the standing ovation after the apology.

Vanessa Williams was the first African American woman to win the Miss America crown, but she stepped down amid a nude photo scandal.

Williams went on to have a successful entertainment career as a singer and an actress. She was also one of the judges in Sunday's competition.

Haskell said no one with the current Miss America staff was involved in the events that led to Williams' resignation.