A Biography of Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck, as host of CNN's Glenn Beck in January, 2007. M. Caulfield/WireImage/Getty Images

Conservative Credentials:

As the Obama era got underway in 2009, Glenn Lee Beck became one of the 21st Century's most important conservative commentators, eclipsing even Rush Limbaugh and becoming the voice for modern mainstream conservatives. Beck's popularity is driven by what conservative writer David Frum says is "a product of the collapse of conservatism as an organized political force, and the rise of conservatism as an alienated cultural sensibility.” Evidence of Beck's wide-ranging influence can be found in his battle against the liberal political organization, ACORN, and the success of his outreach enterprise, The 9/12 Project.

Early Life:

Beck was born on Feb. 10, 1964 to Bill and Mary Beck in Mount Vernon, Wash., where he was raised as Catholic. Beck's mother, an alcoholic, drowned herself in a bay near Tacoma when Beck was just 13 years-old. That same year, he got his start in radio after winning an hour of air time in a contest on one of two radio stations in town. Shortly after his mother's death, one of his brothers-in-law committed suicide in Wyoming and another had a fatal heart attack. Bill Beck, a baker, moved his family north to Bellingham, where his son attended Sehome High School.

Formative Years:

After graduating high school, in the early 1980s, Beck moved from Washington to Salt Lake City, Utah and shared an apartment with a former Mormon missionary. worked in Provo for six months at K-96 and later at stations in Baltimore, Houston, Phoenix, Washington and Connecticut. At 26, he wed his first wife, to whom he was married for four years and with whom he had two daughters, Mary (who has cerebral palsy) and Hannah. Despite his early success, however, Beck soon succumbed to the same substance abusing behavior that killed his mother. He was divorced in 1990, a direct result of his alcoholism and drug abuse.


During his battle with substance abuse, Beck had been accepted to Yale as a theology major thanks, in part, to a recommendation from Sen. Joe Lieberman. Beck lasted just one semester, however, distracted by the needs of his daughter, the ongoing divorce proceedings and his ever-depleting finances. After he left Yale, his family helped him get sober by acquainting him with Alcoholics Anonymous. Soon, his life began to turn around. He met his future second wife, Tania, and, as a prerequisite for marriage, he joined the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Rise to Prominence:

Beck returned to talk radio during this time and over the next several years began to emerge as a conservative force, identifying himself as a Mormon with Libertarian views and a strong sense of family values. He has drawn attention for expressing his opinion on controversial issues (he is fiercely critical of Hollywood liberalism, supports of the war in Iraq, opposes multiculturalism, political correctness, euthanasia, anti-smoking regulations and overt homosexuality in TV and on film. He is also pro-life), and over the years has been a vocal supporter of Republican leadership.

National Spotlight:

Beck went from a local radio personality to national star very quickly. The "Glenn Beck Program" began in 2000 at a station in Tampa, Florida, and by January 2002, Premiere Radio Networks launched the show on 47 stations. The show then moved to Philadelphia, where it became available on more than 100 stations internationally. Beck used his show as a platform for conservative activism, organizing rallies across America, which initially included San Antonio, Cleveland, Atlanta, Valley Forge, and Tampa. In 2003, he rallied in support of George W. Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq.


In 2006, Beck landed a prime-time news commentary show, Glenn Beck on CNN's Headline News Channel. The show was an instant hit. The following year, he was making appearances on ABC's Good Morning America. Beck also guest-hosted Larry King Live in July 2008. By this time, Beck had the second-largest following on CNN, behind Nancy Grace. In October 2008, Beck was lured to the FOX News Channel. His show, Glenn Beck, premiered on the network the night before President Barack Obama was inaugurated. He also had a segment on the popular O'Reilly Factor, called "At Your Beck & Call."

Advocacy, Activism & The 9/12 Project:

Since 2003, Beck has toured the nation appearing in a one-man show in which he tells his inspirational story using his unique brand of humor and infectious energy. As a conservative spokesman and American patriot, Beck organized a series of rallies for troops deployed to Iraq. Beck's biggest advocacy project, however, is The 9/12 Project, which he started in March 2009. The project is dedicated to upholding nine principles and twelve values that united America in the days following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The 9/12 project also has become a rallying cry for many conservatives fed up with the new Left.

Beck & ACORN:

Following the 2008 general election, allegations surfaced that the liberal, inner-city community action group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) had committed numerous instances of voter registration fraud in more than 10 states. After joining FOX News, Beck began do a series of reports taking a closer look at the liberal advocacy group revealing how the organization applied pressure on banks to make loans to minority and low-income borrowers and how its leadership applied Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals." Beck continues to fight against the organization's liberal agenda.

Beck & President Barack Obama:

For many conservatives unhappy with the direction the country has taken since Obama came to office in January 2009, Glenn Beck has become the voice of the opposition. Although he wasn't the impetus behind it, Beck has tacitly approved and vociferously supported the emergence of the national tea party movement, which developed in direct opposition to the Obama administration. While Beck's assertions are always controversial—he has said, for example, that Obama's health care reform package is a way to procure reparations for enslavement—he is likely to be a force in the conservative movement for a long time.

2016 Presidential Election

During the 2016 election, Beck was a supporter of US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and frequently campaigned with him.

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Your Citation
Hawkins, Marcus. "A Biography of Glenn Beck." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/a-biography-of-glenn-beck-3303405. Hawkins, Marcus. (2020, August 26). A Biography of Glenn Beck. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-biography-of-glenn-beck-3303405 Hawkins, Marcus. "A Biography of Glenn Beck." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-biography-of-glenn-beck-3303405 (accessed June 1, 2023).