Phyllis Ann George death: How the Miss America's 'glamor' helped husband John Y Brown Jr become governor in 1979
John decided to run for Governor just 10 days after they wed. Phyllis helped John win Kentucky's 1979 race for governor through her status as Miss America 1971 and enthusiasm for women in sportscasting
Former Kentucky first lady and Miss America Phyllis Ann George passed away at the age of 70 on Friday, May 15. In the midst of her passing, her ex-husband former Governor John Y Brown Jr revealed the type of relationship the duo shared while they were married giving us a bit of insight into their time together. John revealed to WYKT that Phyllis had developed a blood disorder when she was in her 30s and was told that as she got older, it would cause her problems.
Phyllis and John married in 1979 with their friend Norman Vincent Peale officiating, reported USA Today. After being part of three seasons on live pregame shoes, hosting 'People' and even anchoring for 'CBS Morning News,' her marriage to John had put the couple into the political spotlight because John had decided to run for Governor just 10 days after the couple had wed. Phyllis had helped John win Kentucky's 1979 race for governor through her status as Miss America 1971 and her enthusiasm about women in sportscasting.
"John Y Brown Jr, Kentucky's Democratic candidate for governor, and his wife of seven months, Phyllis George, constantly hug and kiss like newlyweds on the campaign trail. And everybody in Kentucky, it seems, wants to kiss the former Miss America turned television personality," said a New York Times article about the race. Terry McBrayer, a Democrat who had lost to John, also spoke of Phyllis saying, "She won it for him, there's no doubt about that. They beat me fair and square, but it was her glamor and his as well."
While most credited Phyllis for John's win, in a Courier-Journal Interview, Phyllis said, "John was handsome, charismatic, successful, entrepreneurial, a visionary, but he's a little shy," admitting that her husband "needed encouragement" sometimes. Phyllis also spoke of how she was criticized as being part of too much of her husband's campaign. Speaking of how their dynamics worked, she said, "John wants me to do all these things and you can't expect a person like me who's been an achiever to stay in the background. They used to say, 'Behind every strong man there's a strong woman'. Well, I like to say, 'Beside every strong man there's a strong woman'."
The 1979 New York Times article also spoke of how the duo had met saying that "The Browns first met two years ago at a professional football playoff game in Minneapolis, where they were introduced by the oddsmaker Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder. As the story goes, Mr Brown had been wanting to meet Miss George ever since the night his divorce from his first wife, Ellie, who ran his unsuccessful Kentucky Colonels basketball team, became final, and he caught a glimpse of Miss George on television. He supposedly told a friend at the time, 'I think I'll out with her.'"
The article reported that after Phyllis' 11‐month marriage to Hollywood movie producer Robert Evans had broken up, she had run into John at a party in Hollywood. In two months' time, the couple were engaged and then married on St Patrick's Day in New York's Marble Collegiate Church in 1979. "Phyllis was a fighter and her children have shown her incredible love during this struggle. She was an incredible first lady for Kentucky. We had fun every day during our time in the Capitol and kept an amicable relationship throughout the years,” said Gov Brown about his ex-wife's recent passing. The duo had divorced in 1998 and share two children together — Lincoln Tyler George Brown, who is now a Lexington entrepreneur, and Pamela Ashley Brown, a White House correspondent for CNN.