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Tavis Smiley

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Information about Tavis Smiley

Profile image of Tavis Smiley

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Publishing Chief Executive
Television Host

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
All Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Sleeping
Favorite Quote:
If a task is once begun, never leave it till it's done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.

Birthplace

Born:
9/13/1964
Birth Location:
Biloxi, Missouri

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Publishing Chief Executive
Television Host

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
All Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Sleeping
Favorite Quote:
If a task is once begun, never leave it till it's done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.

Birthplace

Born:
9/13/1964
Birth Location:
Biloxi
See how Tavis Smiley is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

The third oldest of ten children, Tavis Smiley grew up near an Air Force base in Kokomo, Indiana, where his father was a master sergeant and his mother a Pentecostal minster. Smiley took an interest in politics from an early age, and in high school was voted class president and "Most Likely to Succeed". He attended Indiana University where the death of a classmate at the hands of the police first made him aware of the issues facing the African American community. Convinced that he wanted to pursue a political career, he spent a semester as an intern in the office of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, and graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Law and Public Policy.

After graduating, he returned to Los Angeles where he worked as an advisor to the City Council president and ran unsuccessfully for a council seat. Soon after his electoral defeat, Smiley started the Smiley Report, a 60 second radio news commentary. The report's popularity earned Smiley his own television talk show on Black Entertainment Television, BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley. The show was extremely popular among African Americans and Smiley earned national recognition for an eclectic program that featured interviews with the likes of Bill Clinton, Ice Cube and Pope John Paul II. In April 2001, thousands of Smiley's viewers were outraged when BET terminated his contract.

Since his departure from BET, Smiley is now a correspondent for ABC on Prime Time Thursday and Good Morning America, as well as a commentator for CNN. Smiley also hosts his own signature show on NPR, The Tavis Smiley Show from NPR, a first for an African American. He has authored five books, including How to Make Black America Better, and also writes for USA Weekend.

Throughout his career, Smiley has used his visibility to lead numerous successful public advocacy campaigns, among them, saving the popular Fox television show Living Single from a scheduled cancellation, convincing Sotheby's to donate slave artifacts intended for auction to an African American history museum, and pressuring prominent marketing and advertising firms to spend more money in the black community. In 1999, he founded The Tavis Smiley Foundation, which funds programs that develop young leaders in the black community.

Smiley's success has brought him numerous awards and honors. He received a Black Emmy Award in 2000, as well as a Congressional Black Caucus Harold Washington Award the same year. In 2001, he was honored with the NAACP President's Image Award, the Brotherhood Crusade's 2001 Walter Bremond Pioneer of African American Achievement Award and the Los Angeles Press Club Headliner Award.

Smiley lives and works in Los Angeles.

See how Tavis Smiley is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating for Tavis Smiley Interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Tavis Smiley favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Tavis Smiley talks about his mother's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Tavis Smiley shares his favorite story about his mother's childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Tavis Smiley talks about his father's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Tavis Smiley talks about his father's quiet personality
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Tavis Smiley talks about how his parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Tavis Smiley talks about his siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Tavis Smiley shares his earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Tavis Smiley recalls familiar sounds from his childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Tavis Smiley talks about the responsibility of being the oldest son
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Tavis Smiley talks about his experience moving from Mississippi to Indiana
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Tavis Smiley talks about going to school in a white environment
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Tavis Smiley talks about his shyness with women
  • Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Tavis Smiley explains the role of church and family in his upbringing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Tavis Smiley talks about growing up in poverty
  • Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Tavis Smiley talks about the importance of faith, family, and friends in his life
  • Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Tavis Smiley talks about his childhood ambitions
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Tavis Smiley describes how he acquired his interest in public service and politics
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Tavis Smiley briefly talks about his high school courses and activities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Tavis Smiley describes his experiences at Indiana University
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Tavis Smiley talks about interning for the mayor of Bloomington, Indiana
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Tavis Smiley describes how his parents' divorce affected him
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Tavis Smiley talks about wanting to intern with Mayor Tom Bradley
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Tavis Smiley explains why he chose to intern with Mayor Tom Bradley
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Tavis Smiley talks about his role in Mayor Tom Bradley's office
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Tavis Smiley talks about organizing a major project for Los Angeles, California at a young age
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Tavis Smiley tells his story of Mayor Tom Bradley's office nearly rejecting his internship application
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Tavis Smiley tells the story of accepting Mayor Tom Bradley's internship offer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Tavis Smiley explains his monetary situation during his internship with Mayor Tom Bradley
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Tavis Smiley talks about working for the SCLC in Los Angeles after college
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Tavis Smiley talks about what he learned under Mayor Tom Bradley
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Tavis Smiley talks about running for City Council in Los Angeles
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Tavis Smiley tells what he learned from his experience running for Los Angeles City Council
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Tavis Smiley explains how he got started on the radio
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Tavis Smiley talks about initial support for his radio career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Tavis Smiley compares and contrasts politics with being on the radio
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Tavis Smiley talks about his collaborations with radio host Tom Joyner
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Tavis Smiley explains how he uses radio as a tool for empowerment
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Tavis Smiley talks about speaking out against CompUSA on Tom Joyner's radio show
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Tavis Smiley talks about continuing to criticize CompUSA in defiance of ABC
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Tavis Smiley details the African American response to his criticism of CompUSA and ABC
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Tavis Smiley discusses his dismissal from the BET television network
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Tavis Smiley talks about gaining inspiration and a sense of purpose after his dismissal from BET
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Tavis Smiley talks about his future goals
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Tavis Smiley discusses his legacy
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Photo - Tavis Smiley with Rosa Parks [c. 1993]
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo - President Bill Clinton signs a copy of 'Time' Magazine for Tavis Smiley [c. 1994]
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Photo - Tavis Smiley poses with his grandmother [c. 1980]
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Photo - Tavis Smiley and actress Lorraine Toussaint [2001]
  • Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Photo - Tavis Smiley shakes hands with Pope John Paul II [late 1990s]
  • Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Photo - Tavis Smiley shakes hands with Fidel Castro [1999]
  • Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Photo - Tavis Smiley and Geraldo Rivera [late 1990s]
  • Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Photo - Tavis Smiley and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley [1985]
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Photo - Tavis Smiley at a reception [unknown date]
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Photo - Tavis Smiley with Bishop Noel Jones and Randall Robinson [date unknown]
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Photo - Tavis Smiley with Desmond Tutu [1986]
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Photo - Tavis Smiley and Tom Joyner at Johnson Publishing Company [2001]