Phyllis Louise Dillaha Brandon was born on July 31, 1935, in Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas.
Brandon earned a degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where she was associate editor of the student newspaper, the Arkansas Traveler. Upon graduation she worked for the Arkansas Gazette and the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission.
In 1974 Brandon, who was then president of the Little Rock PTA Council, formed a school lunch committee that uncovered a price-fixing scheme among the dairies providing milk for local school lunches. Her discovery and subsequent actions led to state and federal litigation, which resulted in an antitrust settlement that made Arkansas history.
While rearing two sons, Brandon returned to journalism where she launched the High Profile section of the Arkansas Democrat, which became the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She was editor of the High Profile section for twenty-five years.