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Former Kentucky first lady, Miss America and sports broadcasting pioneer, Phyllis George dies at 70

George also held the title for Miss America 1971.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Former Miss America and Kentucky first lady Phyllis George has died.

George, who was married to the state’s 55th Governor John Y. Brown Jr., passed away Thursday at the UK Chandler Medical Center. 

Family members say she died of a rare blood disease she had been battling for more than 5 years.

Her stepson, John Brown III, posted a message on social media confirming George’s death.

“So very, very sad that someone whose light shone so brightly for so long and who was such an engaging and dear friend to so many is no longer with us.

To me, Phyllis was simply a family member who I loved very much and I am struggling mightily to imagine the world without her beautiful smile and equally beautiful soul.”

She served as the state’s first lady from 1979 to 1983.

New Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown, Jr., hugs his wife, Phyllis George, after being sworn in as the 55th chief executive of the Commonwealth in Frankfort, Kentucky on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 1979. Looking on is the new Lt. Governor Martha Layne Collins, left. (AP Photo)

The Texas native won the 1971 Miss America crown in September 1970.

Credit: AP
Phyllis George, 21-year-old Miss Texas, who became Miss America, pauses in sipping orange juices at her first breakfast as the nation's new beauty queen, in Atlantic City, N.J., Sept. 13, 1970. (AP Photo/Bill Ingraham)

Before she held that title, George was a pioneer in sports broadcasting for becoming one of the first women to host NFL Today, a pre-game show in 1975.

Her co-host Brent Musburger took to Twitter to reflect on his former colleague. 

"Phyllis George was special. Her smile lit up millions of homes for the NFL Today.

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. 

Folks -- men and women -- were comfortable with Phyllis talking about their favorite sport. And in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, they loved Phyllis despite her Dallas Cowboys bias!

RIP Phyllis. Irv Cross and I will miss you dearly."

George also served as an anchor on CBS's Morning in 1985 but left the show after being on air 8 months. She told the New York Times in a then statement that "she came to the conclusion to rearrange her priorities." 

According to IMDB, George had a small role in the 2000 Ben Stiller-led comedy, Meet the Parents.

Governor Andy Beshear spoke Saturday evening on the death of Phyllis George. 

"I was blessed to know Phyllis and her family. Her connection with Kentucky runs deep. As First Lady of the Commonwealth, she was beloved for her vision and oversight in renovating and renewing the state treasure that is the Governor's Mansion and her efforts to promote folk art in America. Our thoughts and prayers are especially with her children, Lincoln and Pamela."  

George was 70 years old.

This story will be updated.

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