Phyllis George, a pioneer in sportscasting and a former Miss America, died on Thursday, May 14, following a long battle with a blood disorder. The Hollywood Reporter shared the news, indicating that a family spokesperson confirmed George’s death. George passed away in the hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. She was 70 years old.
Her family issued a joint statement to the Hollywood Reporter, which reads:
For many, Mom was known by her incredible accomplishments as the pioneering female sportscaster, 50th Miss America and first lady. But this was all before we were born and never how we viewed Mom. To us, she was the most incredible mother we could ever ask for, and it is all of the defining qualities the public never saw, especially against the winds of adversity, that symbolize how extraordinary she is more than anything else. The beauty so many recognized on the outside was a mere fraction of her internal beauty, only to be outdone by an unwavering spirit that allowed her to persevere against all the odds.
1. George Had a Diverse Career as an Entrepreneur, TV Host & Sportscaster
George had a long and varied career. She was a pioneer sportscaster who worked on the CBS pregame show The NFL Today from 1975 until 1984, becoming one of the first women to prominently report on sports in the U.S. She was also a TV host for the entertainment show People in 1978. She became a co-anchor of CBS Morning News in 1985.
The Hollywood Reporter shared a 1999 interview between George and USA Today about being a pioneer sportscaster. George said, “When you’re the first, you’re a pioneer. I felt they didn’t know who Phyllis George was. They played me up as a former Miss America, a sex symbol. I can’t help how I look, but below the surface, I was a hard-working woman. If I hadn’t made that work, women eventually would have come into sportscasting, but it would have taken them longer.”
George worked as a sportscaster for the NFL, but also covered other sporting events, namely horse racing events like the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
2. George Was a Successful Entrepreneur Who Founded Many Successful Businesses
In addition to her work on television, George was a successful entrepreneur with many business ventures. She founded the Kentucky Museum of Arts and Crafts and was a major promotor of Kentucky artists and craftspeople. She also hired only Kentucky craftsmen to renovate the Governor’s Mansion when she lived there as the First Lady of Kentucky.
George founded Chicken by George, which she eventually sold to Hormel Foods in 1988. She launched a skincare and cosmetics line called Phyllis George Beauty and she wrote five books. According to Deadline, she was named Celebrity Women Business Owner of the Year in 1991 by the National Association of Women Business Owners.
3. George Was a Former Miss Texas & Miss America
George was crowned Miss Texas in 1970 and followed that up by winning Miss America in 1971, becoming the 50th winner. She remained involved in the organization and served as a member of the Miss America Organization’s board. She said the organization is important as a scholarship program and credits it for launching her career: “It was the springboard to everything I’ve done in my life.”
She said she was originally asked to enter the Miss Texas pageant by the chamber of commerce. At the time, she was Miss Denton High School and a cheerleader as well as the president of her junior class and a classical pianist. She ended up losing the first pageant she entered but says her loss helped her win the following year and then go on to become Miss America.
4. George Was Born & Raised in Texas & Was Married Twice
RIP Phyllis George, a pioneering sports broadcaster, a former Miss America and the First Lady of Kentucky
She was the first woman ever on a NFL Broadcast pic.twitter.com/yGmXHypfvu
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) May 16, 2020
George was born in Denton, Texas, on June 25, 1949. She attended the University of North Texas for three years, and after her Miss Texas win in 1970 she attended Texas Christian University, where she studied classical piano. When she was in her 30s, George was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder.
She was married twice, first to Hollywood producer Robert Evans from 1977 to 1978, and then to John Y. Brown Jr. from 1979 to 1998. Brown was the owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Boston Celtics NBA team. He also served as the governor of Kentucky from 1979 to 1983, making George the First Lady of Kentucky. The couple had two children together, Lincoln George Brown and Pamela Ashley Brown.
5. She Has 2 Kids From Her Second Marriage, Including CNN White House Correspondent Pamela Ashley Brown
George has two kids from her second marriage, entrepreneur Lincoln George Brown and Pamela Ashley Brown. Her daughter Pamela is best known for being a CNN reporter working as the White House correspondent. Pamela credits her mother as her inspiration and posted a throwback picture of the pair, calling them a mother-daughter power duo.
George was also a grandmother. Pamela and her husband Adam Wright have two kids together, 2-year-old Benny and their daughter Viviene, who was born on February 10 of this year.