Tavis Smiley is a talk show host, novelist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist from the United States. He is also a liberal political analyst and supporter. In the late 1980s, he worked as an advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley before becoming a radio analyst in 1991. His passion and accomplishments have earned him numerous awards and accolades. He has garnered numerous prizes and continues to do so today. He was the host of BET Chat (later renamed BET Tonight), a talk show on BET. Smiley’s contract with BET wasn’t renewed after he sold an exclusive Sara Jane Olson interview to ABC News in 2001. Smiley and Cornel West co-hosted the radio discussion show ‘Smiley & West’ from 2010 to 2013, and also co-starred in the 2009 documentary film ‘Still Bill,’ in which they interviewed musician Bill Withers. He presently broadcasts “Travis Talks” on the Tavis Smiley Network’s BlogTalkRadio show.
Childhood and Adolescence
Tavis Smiley was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, on September 13, 1964, to a single mother, Joyce Marie Roberts, who was just 18 years old at the time of her pregnancy. Joyce married Emory Garnell Smiley, Travis’s biological father but a US Air Force officer, only two years later.
Travis grew up in poverty and had a difficult upbringing. Years later, Tavis discovered his biological father, but he refused to share his identity due to embarrassment. When Emory was transferred for work, the Smiley family moved to Bunker Hill, Indiana. Travis enrolled to Maconaquah High School in Bunker Hill, where he became involved in debating and student government, over his parents’ opposition. They didn’t believe in extracurricular activities that weren’t tied to the religion.
Travis and his sister, Phyllis, were accused of being unruly in school when they were in seventh grade. When they returned home, their stepfather whipped them and they were placed in foster care.
At the age of 13, he became interested in politics after attending a fundraiser for U.S. Senator Birch Bayh.
Career of Tavis Smiley
After high school, he went to Indiana University to study Public Affairs and became a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He left the university in 1988 to work for Tom Bradley because he lacked the requisite credits for graduation, but he had to return in 2003 to finish his degree. He was so passionate about politics that 12 years after graduating from university, he ran for a position on the Los Angeles City Council. He didn’t succeed, but he didn’t fail.
In 1996, he became a regular commentator on ‘the Tom Joyner Morning Program,’ and in 2000, he and show host Tom Joyner began conducting yearly town hall meetings called “The State of the Black Union,” which were broadcast live on the C-SPAN cable television network. Travis did television broadcasts for BET, ABC, and CNN from 1998 to 2001, following which he presented his own Tavis Smiley Show on National Public Radio.
In 2004, he started hosting Tavis Smiley, a nightly chat show. He now co-hosts Smiley and West with Professor Cornel West and hosts the Tavis Smiley Show. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and experiences with others in order to assist them with their challenges. He founded the Tavis Smiley Foundation in 1999 to help provide leadership training and a socializing chance for young minds since he did not limit his aspirations.
Major Projects of Tavis Smiley
Travis is the author of several inspirational nonfiction works, including ‘Doing What’s Right’ in 2000, ‘Keeping the Faith’ in 2002, ‘What I Know For Sure’ in 2006, and ‘Fail Up’ in 2011. His writings are all written with the intention of imparting information and leaving an indelible imprint on the lives of people. He published the ‘Covenant with Black America,’ a collection of articles written by African-American scholars, in 2006. He and Cornel West co-wrote the book ‘The Rich and the Rest of Us’ six years later.
Achievements & Awards
He won the NAACP Image Award for best news, talk show, and information series on BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley from 1997 to 1999. Travis was designated one of America’s 50 Most Promising Young Leaders in 1994, and in 2009, he was named one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People. Travis was honored in 2007 by Bloomington University in Indiana.
Travis was awarded the Du Bois Medal by Harvard and the 2009 Interdependence Day Prize by Demos in Istanbul on December 12, 2008. In Ebony Magazine’s Power 50 list, he was also named the number two change agent in the realm of media, after Oprah Winfrey. Travis received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2014 for his services to television broadcasting.
Personal History and Legacy
Travis is still single and entirely focused on his profession. He helps individuals realize their genuine self through the ‘Tavis Smiley Foundation’ and his programs, and he teaches them that success is not free, but it is for everyone. Youth Survival Manual was written by Tavis Smiley. He has moderated presidential debates for both the Republican and Democratic parties. In 1994, he was named one of Time’s 50 Most Promising Young Leaders, and in 2009, he was named one of the 100 Most Influential People on the Planet.
Estimated Net Worth
Tavis Smiley is an author, liberal political pundit, entrepreneur, advocate, and philanthropist from the United States. Tavis Smiley has a $4 million dollar net worth.