Tavis Smiley is a well known talk show host and media personality. He was born on September 13, 1964 in Gulfport, Mississippi to a single teenaged mother named Joyce Marie Roberts. Joyce married a US Air Force Officer named Emory Garnell Smiley, and Tavis was named after his stepfather. He did not know about his biological father until he was much older, and in fact, never publicly revealed his real father’s name. Because of his stepfather’s transfer, the family moved to Indiana, where they lived in a three bedroom mobile home. Tavis had three other siblings, and when his mother’s sister died, four of her five children came to live with his family as well. As a result, Tavis, his parents, siblings and grandmother all lived together in their trailer home.
He belonged to a very religious family, and as a child, was hardly allowed to watch movies or any television shows that his parents didn’t approve of. Tavis was interested in politics from a very young age, which was sparked when he attended a fundraiser for U.S. Senator Birch Bayh at the age of 13. As a high school student, he was an active member of the student council and debate team. After high school, he enrolled at Indiana University Bloomington, with only a few possessions and $50 in his pocket. He completed the financial aid paperwork after his admission, where he worked, attended classes and lived off campus with the basketball team. He was also a member of the student senate and a director of minority affairs, along with being a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He was politically active, and organized student protests over the death of a black student by a white police officer.
He interned at the office of Los Angeles’ mayor Tom Bradley, and also considered attending Harvard Law School but didn’t take admission. He started his radio career at a local radio station named KGFJ, where he did a one minute segment called “The Smiley Report”. He also co-hosted a talk show in Los Angeles, where he aired his views on racism, economic opportunities