LEXINGTON, Ky. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Phyllis George, a North Texas native and former Miss America who became a female sportscasting pioneer on CBS’s “The NFL Today,” has died at the age of 70.
A family spokeswoman said George died Thursday at a Lexington hospital after a long fight with a blood disorder.
Her children, Lincoln Tyler George Brown and CNN White House correspondent Pamela Ashley Brown, released a joint statement, saying:
“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.”
George, a Denton native who attended the now-called University of North Texas and then became Miss America in 1971, got into television in 1974 at CBS on “Candid Camera” and joined Brent Musburger and Irv Cross in 1975 on “The NFL Today.” Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder later was added to the cast.
“Phyllis George was special. Her smile lit up millions of homes for the NFL Today,” Musburger tweeted. “Phyllis didn’t receive nearly enough credit for opening the sports broadcasting door for the dozens of talented women who took her lead and soared.”
George worked on “The NFL Today” until 1984 and also covered horse racing. She hosted the entertainment show “People” and later co-anchored the “CBS Morning News.”
George was briefly married to Hollywood producer Robert Evans in the mid-1970s and to John Y. Brown Jr. from 1979-98. Brown owned Kentucky Fried Chicken and the NBA’s Boston Celtics and served as the governor of Kentucky.
“Phyllis was a great asset to Kentucky,” Brown told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “We had a great partnership. I think we enjoyed every single day.”
George attended UNT for three years, then went to Texas Christian University after earning a scholarship as Miss Texas in 1970.
“Phyllis George was a pioneer and an American icon,” UNT President Neal Smatresk said. “We are proud she was a member of our UNT community as she was an incredible example for women everywhere. We appreciated her support, and we will miss her.”
“A true pioneer who approached her job with enthusiasm, empathy and humor,” ESPN broadcaster Hannah Storm tweeted. “She was herself-charming and funny .. helped her audiences connect with some of the great sports figures of the day.”
CBS Sports released a statement on her passing that read:
“The CBS Sports family is deeply saddened by the passing of Phyllis George, an icon in the sports broadcasting industry who contributed greatly to the rich history and tradition of CBS Sports. Phyllis was not only a key member of a show that remains the gold standard of NFL pregame shows, The NFL Today with Brent, Irv and ‘The Greek,’ but also a pioneer for all women in broadcasting.”
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)