Phyllis George, a former Miss America winner who went on to become one of the first female broadcasters covering the NFL — and later, the First Lady of Kentucky — died Thursday at the age of 70. Her ex-husband, John Y. Brown Jr., told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Saturday she had suffered from a rare blood disorder since she was in her 30s.
George’s eclectic career started in 1970, when she won the Miss Texas title; a year later, she won the Miss America pageant, garnering her widespread national coverage. Five years later, George started cohosting “The NFL Today” on CBS, becoming one of the first women to cover professional football on a national level. During her time at CBS, George was also a broadcaster for several major horse racing events, including the Belmont Stakes and Preakness.
“In my gut, I thought Phyllis was pretty special,” former TV executive Bob Wussler, who hired George at CBS, once said, according to ESPN. “I thought there was a role for her, as somebody who could talk to guys who knew something about sports.”
George was married to famed Hollywood producer Robert Evans from 1977 to 1978, before marrying John Y. Brown Jr. in 1979. She was considered an integral part of Brown’s successful bid for governor of Kentucky that same year, with one local reporter telling the Lexington Herald-Leader she “brought glamour” to the governor’s office. With Brown’s win, George became the First Lady of Kentucky from 1979 to 1983. The couple had two children together before divorcing in 1998. Her daughter, Pamela Brown, is a reporter for CNN.
“Phyllis was a fighter and her children have shown her incredible love during this struggle,” Brown said on Saturday. “She was an incredible first lady for Kentucky.”
George was born June 25, 1949 in Denton, Texas, and attended North Texas State University (now known as University of North Texas) for three years before winning her Miss Texas crown. Beyond her pageant and broadcasting career, George was also a businesswoman, author and actress, playing a small role in the 2000 hit “Meet the Parents.”