Independent Living


Greg Smith

Greg Smith as a boy, with a head full of curly hair, smiling at the camera.
Greg Smith as a young boy

An X-ray of Smith’s spine, showing the metal rods with which it is fused.
An x-ray of the metal rods
supporting Smith's spine

Greg Smith, host and founder of the nationally syndicated On A Roll talk radio, is one of the most dynamic voices in the disability movement today. Born in Bay Springs, Mississippi in 1964, Smith was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of three. At the time, Smith’s parents, Jim and Adelia, were teachers at Nichols High School in Biloxi, where Jim also served as the school’s head football coach. In 1968, the Smith family moved to upstate New York, and then to Chicago, where Jim worked in sales and marketing and Greg attended public schools.

By the time Smith reached the age of 13, his curving spine was starting to damage his internal organs. He underwent surgery to break, and then straighten his spine, which was then fused with three metal rods. After this surgery, Smith could no longer walk, and began using a power wheelchair.

In high school, Smith played percussion in the marching band and “marched” on the football field, using a foot control on his wheelchair. He also discovered his love for radio during this time, working as a play-by-play announcer for football, basketball and baseball games on the student radio station. Smith later attended Arizona State University, where he earned a BA in broadcasting and was the sports director on the campus radio station. After graduating from college, Smith worked as the research and sales promotion director for KTAR/K-Lite Radio in Phoenix, and as the host of Cardinal Talk, a call-in radio program that aired after NFL Cardinals games.

Smith started On A Roll as a local AM radio program in Phoenix in 1992, expanding it to include more than 70 national stations in the next 11 years. In 1999, he spoke at the Congressional Black Caucus on disability issues for African Americans and started a Web-based discussion group to discuss unique cultural issues that face this “double minority” community. As seen in ON A ROLL, Smith was the lead torchbearer during the tenth anniversary celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) in 2000.

Smith, on stage in his wheelchair, talking to a stadium full of people.

A 2002 inductee into the esteemed National Speakers Association, Smith has dedicated his career to increasing disability awareness through the media and public speaking. His work has resulted in significant national media exposure, including profiles on CBS's The Early Show and National Public Radio's All Things Considered, as well as articles in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Essence Magazine, and many others. Smith is currently the host of a new syndicated radio show called The Strength Coach.

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