Honoring Oprah for Women’s History Month

Last updated on June 23rd, 2015 at 02:52 pm

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey’s ties to the Nashville area are well known. She spent a good portion of her earliest years growing up in the area while living with her father Vernon. She attended Nashville East High School and Tennessee State University. While at TSU, where she earned her degree, she was named Miss Black Tennessee.

She got her first gig in radio as a news reader at WVOL. At the age of 19, she was Nashville’s first African American TV correspondent and the youngest co-anchor of the news at WTVF-TV.

Winfrey is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. Winfrey is best known for her multi-award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011. Dubbed the ‘Queen of All Media,’ she has been ranked the richest African American of the 20th century, the greatest black philanthropist in American history, and is currently (2012) North America’s only Black billionaire. She is also, according to some assessments, the most influential woman in the world. In 2013, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama and an honorary doctorate degree from Harvard.

Winfrey’s career choice in media would not have surprised her grandmother, who once said that ever since Winfrey could talk, she was on stage. As a child, she played games interviewing her corncob doll and the crows on the fence of her family’s property. Winfrey later acknowledged her grandmother’s influence, saying it was Hattie Mae who had encouraged her to speak in public and “gave me a positive sense of myself.” Working in local media, she was both the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. She moved to Baltimore’s WJZ-TV in 1976 to co-anchor the six o’clock news. She was then recruited to join Richard Sher as co-host of WJZ’s local talk show People Are Talking, which premiered on August 14, 1978. She also hosted the local version of Dialing for Dollars there.

Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and later raised in an inner-city Milwaukee neighborhood. Sent to live with her father, Vernon Winfrey, a barber in Tennessee, Winfrey landed a job in radio while still in high school and began co-anchoring the local evening news at the age of 19. Her emotional ad-lib delivery eventually got her transferred to the daytime-talk-show arena, and after boosting a third-rated local Chicago talk show to first place, she launched her own production company and became internationally syndicated.