Phyllis Ann George sees her life as a crazy quilt - a unique work
of patchwork art, with no preplanned pattern, that beautifully represents
significant events. Like the 19th-century crazy quilts that symbolized women's
ingenuity, Phyllis' career showcases a pioneering spirit and an ability to
embrace change and respond to opportunity.
"I have done a
lot of things. Some say I'm an overachiever. But really, I'm just a small town
girl who used Miss America as a stepping stone," says Phyllis, a native of
Denton, Texas. While a member of Gamma Phi Chapter at University of North Texas,
she was crowned Miss Texas. That crown came with a scholarship to Texas
Christian University, so Phyllis transferred her membership to Gamma Psi
Chapter. In 1971, she was crowned the 50th Miss America.
While 49 women had preceded her as Miss America, none had gone
before her in her next steps. In 1973, CBS hired Phyllis as Allen Funt's first
co-host on "Candid Camera." One year later, CBS Sports offered her a 13-week
trial as co-host of its professional football pregame show, "The NFL Today."
"I never dreamed of being a sports broadcaster, although,
growing up in Texas, I always loved sports," Phyllis says. "I had to study hard
to learn as much as I could about the people I would interview. I asked the
questions that I thought curious fans wanted answered. I found my niche and
filled a void."
Her pioneering career with CBS Sports lasted
10 years, during which time she married John Y. Brown, Jr. He was elected
Governor of Kentucky in 1979 and soon after, the state fire marshal condemned
the Governor's Mansion. Phyllis organized the "Save the Mansion" group to
restore it. "I took criticism because people thought the plan was too
extravagant," she recalls. "If you are taking risk, then you need to be prepared
to take heat. But you have to be flexible and listen to others."
embraced her new Kentucky home and her love for the creative work of the hands
inspired her to co-found the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. The first-ever
such museum in the United States, it showcases the artisans and their work and
is now a role model for other organizations. She has also written three books on
crafts and quilting.
She and John Brown have two children:
Pamela, now a broadcast reporter and anchor in Washington, D.C., and Lincoln, a
successful entrepreneur. "My most important role is being a mother to Pamela and
Lincoln," she says. "They are my greatest achievement."
juggling a career and her family, Phyllis came up with the idea that became a
grocery staple. Her company, Chicken by George, began in her kitchen and was the
first to package boneless, skinless marinated chicken breasts. After a
successful startup, she sold the company to Hormel.
years, Phyllis has champtioned many humanitarian needs, including Save the
Children and Special Olympics. She is a passionate advocate for Alzheimer's
research, having lost her best friend, her mother, to the insidious disease. She
annually honors caregivers who provide their loved ones with dignity and
In 2003, Phyllis wrote her fourth book, "Never Say
Never -Yes You Can," a collection of personal insights and lessons from her life
and her friends.
Now, 41 years after being crowned Miss
America, Phyllis still embraces a challenge. "When someone tells me, 'it's never
been done before,' I think, maybe we need to do it," she says. "Sometimes it
works and sometimes it doesn't. If you lose, don't lose the lesson. Moving
forward and thinking positive. That's what I plan to do next."
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