|December 28, 1954|
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Gayle King was born on Dec. 28, 1954 in Chevy Chase, MD to her electrical engineer father and homemaker mother. Due to the nature of her father's work, King spent many years as a child in Turkey, studying in an American school. After many years overseas, the family eventually settled in Bethesda, MD. It was pretty evident early on that King had aspirations for a career in the media. She was a psychology major - graduating with a psychology degree in 1976 - at the University of Maryland, but the jobs she held were all indicative of where her heart's true passions were. She worked as a production assistant at local news stations WTOP-TV in Washington, D.C. and at WJZ-TV in Baltimore. It was at WJZ-TV where King met Winfrey, then an unknown evening news anchor at the station. The two became fast friends during a particularly ugly snowstorm that wreaked havoc on Baltimore one night. Winfrey suggested that King stay with her instead of making the long, treacherous drive back home to Bethesda, where King still lived with her parents. The two were reportedly up all night, talking and gossiping about co-workers, and without realizing it, quickly forging the famous friendship that would last for decades to come.
In 1978, King moved to Kansas City, MO to take a reporting job before taking the anchor spot at WDAF-TV. It was here where she dated and wed a local police officer, Bill Bumpus, in 1982. The couple, who divorced in 1993, had a daughter, Kirby, and a son, William; both were Winfrey's godchildren. After making Kansas City her home for the three years, the self-proclaimed news junkie began eyeing a bigger and better gig. King found it in 1981 at WFSB Eyewitness News out of Hartford, CT where she was news anchor for 18 years. In the meantime, King's best friend landed a job she was born for: "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (syndicated, 1986 - ). Neither woman knew at the time how big this show and its down-to-earth, relatable host would become, but while Winfrey's fame and power blew up over the years, King continued to anchor in Connecticut, while at the same time, either being mentioned on-air by Winfrey or being featured in various "Oprah Winfrey Show" segments over the years. She also had a brief stint co-hosting the daytime talk show "Cover to Cover" (NBC, 1991) till that program's cancellation.
By the late 1990s, perhaps seeing the potential in her public friendship with Winfrey and her own rising popularity, network executives offered King her own syndicated program "The Gayle King Show" (CBS, 1997-1998). While most daytime talk shows were based out of Los Angeles or New York, King was able to convince the network to film her show in Hartford so she could continue her anchor duties at WFSB and to stay close to her children. Not surprisingly, Winfrey advised King on all matters pertaining to the show, including her wardrobe choices and suggestions on set furniture and theme music. After a month on air, King interviewed best friend Winfrey and Winfrey's long-time partner Graham Steadman together; Steadman was in the Hartford studio while Winfrey was being broadcast via satellite in Chicago. It was a historic television moment as it was the first time two daytime talk shows had gone on air simultaneously. Unfortunately, King's talk show failed to attract a major following and was canceled a year later.
While their career paths initially took them in different directions, King and Winfrey stayed close, often calling each other up to four times in a single day to catch up. The two formed an enduring relationship that was widely speculated on by the media to have been more than just a friendship. Over the years, rumors ran rampant that the two were in a romantic relationship, which both women denied. Both claimed that their relationship had always been just a very close bond between two women and said on many occasions that if they did have a relationship, they would have had no reason to hide it from the public.
When her daytime talk show went off the air, King next turned her attention to other ventures; albeit most of which were within the former newscaster's comfort zone. In 1999, she became editor-at-large of Winfrey's monthly magazine O, The Oprah Magazine, as well as editor of O At Home magazine since its inception in 2003. As editor, King acted as liaison between Winfrey and the magazine staff, guiding the publications' editorial and creative directions. Over the years, King also worked as a special correspondent for "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Good Morning America" (ABC, 1975- ). She was also one of the driving forces behind Winfrey's "Legends Ball," a three-day extravaganza honoring 25 African-American women in the fields of art, music, and civil rights. King was instrumental in bringing together some of the celebration's honorees, which included Maya Angelou, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, and Toni Morrison, among others.
Her extensive news background served King well when she began hosting several segments on the radio program, "Oprah and Friends," on XM Satellite radio, where she tackled subjects ranging from politics to women's issues, as well as interviewing some of the most relevant personalities at the time. In August 2008, King interviewed Michelle Obama, the wife of the then presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama. That interview kicked off a week of King broadcasting live from the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO.