The Untold Truth Of Phyllis George

It's a sad time for women in journalism, as former Miss America and sportscaster Phyllis George died of complications due a blood disorder in mid-May 2020. She shattered boundaries for women, and even President Donald Trump took to Twitter to mourn the loss. He wrote, "Phyllis George was a great person and a true pioneer for women in television. The NFL could not have made a better 'pick' when they choose [sic] Phyllis to be the first woman to represent them. Also, a wonderful First Lady of Kentucky as the wife of Gov. John Y. Brown." 

Not only was George a former Miss America, she also broke barriers in the broadcasting industry as a female sportscaster, eventually co-hosting NFL Today and CBS Morning News during a time when women were rarely on television, especially talking about sports.

She was a force of nature. Her daughter, CNN anchor Pamela Brown, wrote on Instagram of her mother, "I knew Mom had an accomplished career in many respects but to me she was just Mom — or Hurricane Phyl as I fondly called her because she was a true force of nature with an indomitable spirit. She set an example for me of what it means to be a strong, confident woman who is sweet, kind and thoughtful to others no matter who they are or what they did."

Phyllis George was more than just Miss America

Per Fox News, Phyllis George's family confirmed her death in a statement. They said, "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."

The family added that it was "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."

Born in Denton, Texas, George came to fame by being crowned Miss America 1971, and as she told Texas Monthly in 2007, it was the "springboard" for the rest of her career. And what a career it was! After co-hosting the Miss America pageant and a stint on Candid Camera, George managed to secure herself a deal with CBS Sports in 1974 and went on to co-host NFL Today from then on. She later also co-hosted CBS Morning News

Phyllis George's daughter is a news anchor, too

Phyllis George's death at 70 years old came way too soon, but her legacy will live on, as she inspired many women to go into broadcasting — including her daughter, CNN anchor Pamela Brown. Brown told CNN that it wasn't always easy though. She shared, "She had a whole box of letters from people who wrote her and said awful things. What do you think you're doing? Who do you think you are?' Because it was a man's job. Mom said that when she stopped reading the letters, she gained so much confidence." Brown added that her mother was her biggest advocate and biggest critic. "She always made me better," the news anchor said of her mom. 

In addition to her groundbreaking work on television paving the way for women in the field, George was also accomplished as a former first lady of Kentucky, having been married to KFC owner John Y. Brown, who served as Kentucky governor from 1979 to 1983. They had two kids together, Pamela and Lincoln Tyler George. It was her second marriage — her first was to producer Robert Evans, which also ended in divorce. 

Phyllis George had a mind for business

Phyllis George took her role as first lady of Kentucky just as seriously as she took her broadcasting career. As cultural ambassador, she started the Kentucky Art and Craft Foundation in 1980 (it's now known as the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft) and was dogged in her mission to make sure people knew what Kentucky had to offer, even going as far to get Bloomingdale's to carry Kentucky-made crafts, per CNN

Per the Star Tribune, she also started Phyllis George Beauty, which was sold on the Home Shopping Network and published a book called Never Say Never: 10 Lessons to Turn You Can't Into Yes I Can. George also had a line of marinated chicken breast entrees called Chicken By George. Per Fox News, she sold it two years later to Hormel & Co. Clearly, George was an accomplished — and busy! — woman. She'll be missed by her family, friends, and everyone who ever looked up to her.