Hailed as a “class act” by journalists and sports veterans alike, Phyllis George was a pioneering persona in radio, tv, and papers. This legendary former Miss America, TV personality and the ex-Kentucky first lady passed away at 70 after a long fight with a rare blood disorder.
According to Variety, family members say she died of complications from a rare form of blood cancer diagnosed three decades ago. Her impact and influence in sports paved the way for many women in the male-dominated sports arena.
Lesley Visser, the sports broadcaster recounting the “gentle giant’ of Sports media, says, “She couldn’t have been warmer, sprinkling her charm around to everyone, from the coaches to the players to the ball boys to the media. She treated me like a sister. She oozed friendliness.
She never made you think, oh, she’s Phyllis George, and I’m not. I just observed her and thought, no wonder all of America is in love with her.”
Donald Trump expressing his condolences on Twitter, said, “Phyllis George was a great person and a true pioneer for women on television.”
“The NFL could not have made a better ‘pick’ when they choose Phyllis to be the first woman to represent them,” Trump wrote. “Also, a wonderful First Lady of Kentucky as the wife of Gov. John Y. Brown.”
“May Phyllis Rest In Peace. Warmest condolences to her beloved family!!!”
George won the Miss America pageant in 1971 and moved to TV broadcasting in 1974, first with “Candid Camera” and then with “NFL Today” on CBS. Phyllis hosted three seasons on ‘NFL Today.’ In 1979 she married John Y.
Brown Jr., who built the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain and was Kentucky’s governor for four years. She became the first lady of Kentucky. Her career graph also includes co-anchoring for “The CBS Morning News.” However, her stint in CBS was cut short due to professional differences.
NBC’s NFL reporter Michelle Tafoya called George “an early inspiration” and said she “will always remember her as a pioneer.” The legacy that was left behind by Phyllis George found continuum in her children, Pamela, a CNN’s senior White House correspondent, and Lincoln, a technology entrepreneur.
Pamela recalls her mother’s impact on the Sports domain and the challenges she faced. “She broke the glass ceiling, and when she first started, she got so much hate mail because people were angry that she was a woman in a man’s arena. But she persevered through that.”