Phyllis George, former Miss America and TV personality, dies at 70

Television personality Phyllis George has died at the age of 70.

Hannah Storm of ESPN tweeted:

Rest In Peace Phyllis George. A true pioneer who approached her job with enthusiasm, empathy and humour. She was herself-charming and funny ..helped her audiences connect with some of the great sports figures of the day. Condolences to her family & all who loved her.

USAToday reports Phyllis George, a former Miss America, television personality and ex-wife of Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. has died in Lexington after an illness.

George, who had been hospitalized at the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler hospital, was 70.

She died Thursday from complications from a blood disorder she had developed in her mid-30s but had managed for many years, Brown told The Courier Journal on Saturday.

“Phyllis was a great asset to Kentucky,” said Brown, who said he had maintained an amicable relationship with his ex-wife. He said he especially valued their four years as governor and first lady.

“We had a great partnership,” he said. “I think we enjoyed every single day.”

Brown said the couple’s two children had been with George in recent weeks providing care and support.

“We’re sorry to lose her,” he said. “She’s been a big part of our lives.”

George, a Texan, rose to prominence after winning the 1971 Miss America title at age 21 and relocating to New York where she said her “Texas personality” helped her land her first television assignments.

Named Miss Congeniality in the Miss Texas pageant, George described herself in a 1998 Courier Journal interview as a small-town Christian girl “very close to my family” who entered the Miss America pageant determined to win.

“I was focused,” she said. “I was prepared.”

In New York, after appearing in commercials and some minor roles, George’s first major break was as a commentator with CBS Sports. George 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.”