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Phyllis George (1949–2020), groundbreaking sportscaster, Miss America, first lady of Kentucky

by Stephen Segal

Phyllis George, who during her remarkable career was one of the first female sportscasters in American television as well as Miss America and the first lady of Kentucky, died Thursday at the age of 70.

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  • Died: Thursday, May 14, 2020. (Who else died May 14?)
  • Details of death: Died in Lexington, Kentucky of a blood disorder at 70.

The changing face of sports TV

After winning the Miss America pageant in 1971, George became a popular guest on television talk shows — notably, “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. In 1975, CBS Sports named her cohost of “The NFL Today” alongside Brent Musburger and Irv Cross. She was the first woman to hold that position, and among the first handful to cover the NFL on network TV.


George cohosted the show throughout the late ’70s and early ’80s, interviewing NFL greats such as Joe Namath and Roger Staubach. During her time at CBS, she also covered the major horse races and did a brief stint coanchoring the “CBS Evening News.”

Family and personal life

A Texas native, George had a first marriage to Hollywood producer Robert Evans before marrying businessman John Y. Brown, who built Kentucky Fried Chicken into an international brand. When Brown ran for governor of Kentucky in 1979, George joined him on the campaign trail, and many attributed her charismatic presence with helping her new husband win the election.

George was a lover and patron of American folk art. In 1981, she founded the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, which for decades has supported working artists.

She is survived by two children, Lincoln Brown and Pamela Brown, who currently serves as CNN’s White House correspondent.

What they said about her

Full obituary: Lexington Herald-Leader

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