Robin Roberts, a broadcast journalist famous for her work on ABC News and ESPN, was born on 23 November 1960 in Tuskegee, Alabama, the fourth and youngest child of Lawrence Roberts, one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, and Lucimarian Tolliver Roberts. The Roberts family moved to Mississippi when Robin was eight years old, living first in Biloxi and later in Pass Christian. During her senior year at Pass Christian High School, Roberts was an all-state basketball player and was selected by her classmates as Miss Pass Christian High. After graduating as salutatorian in 1979, Roberts enrolled at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, where she starred on the Lady Lions basketball team, finishing in third place on the school’s all-time scoring list. She graduated cum laude in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.
After obtaining a job as weekend sports anchor at WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg, she worked her way up the broadcasting ladder, moving to more visible positions at stations in larger markets: in 1984 Biloxi’s WLOX-TV hired her as a sportscaster; in 1986 she joined the sports team at WSMV-TV in Nashville, Tennessee; in 1988 she became a sports reporter and anchor at Atlanta’s WAGA-TV.
In 1990 Roberts joined cable sports network ESPN, headquartered in Bristol, Connecticut. She remained with the network for the next fifteen years, hosting its flagship program, SportsCenter; contributing to NFL Primetime; and providing reports and interviews from various sporting events. In addition, Roberts worked as a play-by-play commentator and host of the network’s Women’s National Basketball Association games and specials and covered the Winter and Summer Olympics. In 1995 she added ABC’s Good Morning America to her duties, anchoring news reports from the studio and serving as a feature reporter.
In May 2005 Roberts left ESPN and became a coanchor of ABC News’s Good Morning America, not only hosting the show from New York but covering events around the world, including the devastation Hurricane Katrina caused to the Gulf Coast area where she was raised.
In 2007–8 Roberts underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment for breast cancer, continuing to broadcast during this time. In 2012 she was diagnosed with myelodisplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disease. Her public announcement of her illness resulted in an 1,800 percent spike in the number of registered bone marrow donors. After a leave of absence from broadcasting during which she received a successful bone marrow transplant, Roberts returned to television in early 2013. In December of that year, she publicly acknowledged that she is gay.
Numerous organizations have recognized Roberts’s status as a pioneer in women’s sports and broadcasting, her role as a survivor of breast cancer and bone marrow disease, and her activism on behalf of gay rights. In 1994 she was inducted as a member of the Women’s Institute on Sport and Education Foundation’s Hall of Fame. Two years later Southeastern Louisiana University named her its Alumnus of the Year and she endowed a scholarship at the school; in 2011 the school retired her jersey. In July 2008 she received the Inspiration Award from the Women’s National Basketball Association. In 2012 she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and won a Peabody Award for her work on Good Morning America. ESPN honored her with its 2013 Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and the following year she received the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism. And in 2015 Equality Forum named her one of its thirty-one Icons of LGBT History Month. The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association annually awards the Robin Roberts/WBCA Sports Communications Scholarship Award to a female student-athlete who is studying journalism or communications and is planning to attend graduate school. Roberts has also published four books: From the Heart: Seven Rules to Live By (2007); From the Heart: Eight Rules to Live By (2008); My Story, My Song: Mother-Daughter Reflections on Life and Faith (2012, coauthored with her mother); and Everybody’s Got Something (2014).
- Good Morning America website, http://gma.yahoo.com
- “Robin Roberts’ Biography,” http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/robin-roberts-biography/story?id=128237