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Phyllis George, female sportscasting pioneer, dies at 70

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Phyllis George, female sportscasting pioneer, dies at 70

Phyllis George, the previous Miss America who turned a female sportscasting pioneer on CBS’s “The NFL Today” and served as the primary girl of Kentucky, has died. She was 70.

A household spokeswoman mentioned George died Thursday at a Lexington, Kentucky, hospital after an extended battle with a blood dysfunction.

Her kids, Lincoln Tyler George Brown and CNN White House correspondent Pamela Ashley Brown, launched a joint assertion, 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.”

Miss America in 1971, George joined Brent Musburger and Irv Cross in 1975 on “The NFL Today.” Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder later was added to the solid.

“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 spent three seasons on the stay pregame present, returned in 1980 and left in 1983, profitable plaudits for her heat of her interviews with star athletes. She additionally coated horse racing, hosted the leisure present “People” and co-anchored the “CBS Morning News.”

George was briefly married to Hollywood producer Robert Evans within 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 because the governor of Kentucky.

“Phyllis was a great asset to Kentucky,” Brown advised the Louisville Courier-Journal. “We had a great partnership. I think we enjoyed every single day.”

From Denton, Texas, George attended the University of North Texas for 3 years, then went to Texas Christian University after incomes a scholarship as Miss Texas in 1970.

In her 2002 memoir, George wrote {that a} male good friend advised her sportscasting wouldn’t work as a result of it was a person’s job. George even acknowledged understanding nothing concerning the business and having no expertise nor one other female mentor to observe.

None of it stopped her.

George was a good friend of minister Norman Vincent Peale and a religious believer in his best-selling philosophy of optimistic considering, George credit that strategy for launching a defining profession she didn’t count on – one which noticed her vary into an astonishing number of ventures and roles, in media, the movie business, meals and wonder merchandise, and because the glamorous first girl of the bluegrass state.

“Saying yes to yourself opens up opportunities that can take you anywhere,” George wrote. “Having a mentor in your life who says yes to you is also key. Appreciate your mentors when you’re starting out. And later, always give credit to the people who were there with you at the beginning.”

ESPN sportscaster Hannah Storm remembered George as “the ultimate trailblazer” who impressed different ladies by exhibiting that careers in sportscasting may very well be inside their grasp.

“A lot of times when you’re dreaming of something as a career option, you have to see it in order to believe it,” she mentioned. “And someone has to be first, and that was Phyllis.”

Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports, known as George’s hiring as a part of “The NFL Today” crew a “groundbreaking decision” that “changed the face of sports television.”

“She had an openness and enthusiasm that made her a valuable contributor,” Pilson mentioned. “She didn’t claim to know a tremendous amount about sports, but she knew about people, which is why her interviews resonated. She could do the best interviews with athletes and family members. She was a warm person and that came through on the set and in the interviews.”

George performed one-on-one interviews with star athletes corresponding to NFL greats Joe Namath and Roger Staubach.

“People were uncomfortable with the idea of seeing a woman on TV talking about sports in a prominent role,” Storm mentioned. “But someone has to go first. I give her so much respect for truly her courage. She had to put herself out there. Phyllis George did something out of the norm. And I’m forever grateful for her leading the way.”

George wasn’t the primary however made her entrance across the time that different ladies had been getting their begins reporting on sports activities, too.

Jane Chastain was employed at CBS in 1974 and have become the primary female announcer on an NFL telecast that fall.

Lesley Visser turned the primary female NFL beat author throughout a 14-year profession at The Boston Globe that began in 1974. She later labored on “The NFL Today” in addition to ABC and ESPN, turning into the primary girl assigned to “Monday Night Football” in 1998.

Visser mentioned George “always made you feel important and warm. I never heard her talk about anyone in a negative way. She made everything look so easy. She had a magnetic personality.”

The business found George after she co-hosted “Candid Camera” and the Miss America pageant. She obtained a 13-week possibility from CBS in 1974 with no outlined function. But a well-liked interview with reluctant Boston Celtics star Dave Cowens quickly earned her a three-year deal and paved the best way to her breakthrough function the following 12 months on “The NFL Today.”

George moved on to co-host the “CBS Morning News” in 1985 however give up after lower than eight months. Among the individuals she interviewed was former first girl Nancy Reagan. She later interviewed President Bill Clinton in 1994 as a part of her personal prime-time discuss present.

As a businesswoman, George based “Chicken By George,” an eight-item line of contemporary, marinated hen breast entrees, and offered it two years later to Geo. A. Hormel & Co. She created “Phyllis George Beauty” in 2003. The beauty and skincare product line was offered by means of a TV dwelling procuring community.

She additionally wrote a number of different books and had roles in a pair of Hollywood comedy movies.

“Phyllis is a pioneer. Her range is what impresses me the most,” former Kentucky and Louisville coach Rick Pitino, now at Iona, wrote within the foreward to her memoir, “Never Say Never: Ten lessons to turn you can’t into YES I CAN.”

“She entered a highly competitive pageant and emerged as Miss America,” Pitino wrote. “She became the first national female sports broadcaster. She flourished in the limelight as First Lady in the state of Kentucky. She’s been successful in business. And she is a respected humanitarian. Each step along the way, she embraced the mission at hand.”


Schreiner reported from Louisville, Kentucky, and Raby from Charleston, West Virginia. AP Sports Writers John Nicholson, Joe Reedy and Gary Graves additionally contributed to this report.

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