Growing up in Detroit, the only child of two schoolteachers, Edward Lansing Gordon III dreamed of being a different kind of power player. He loved politics and considered becoming a lawyer. But even as a schoolboy, Ed loved to play TV journalist. "I would deliver the news in the hall between classes, or at the lunch table," says Gordon, who cites Dan Rather as an early role model (Bryant Gumbel came later).
At Western Michigan University, Gordon received a B.A. in communications and political science in 1982 and met future wife Karen Haney, now 34 and a computer software buyer. A year after graduation, he started his climb—as a production assistant at Detroit's WTVS. He signed on with BET in 1988.
The Gordons, who live in Alexandria, Va., expect their first child in March. Inevitably, Ed is reminded of his own dad, a '32 Olympic gold medalist (in long jumping), who died when Ed was 11. "I'd love to be the kind of dad he was," Gordon says. "He was dutiful—and spoiled me rotten."