Isiah Smith, Jr., was born in 1948 in Blakely, Georgia, nicknamed “The Meanest Little Town in America” because of its history of fierce racial violence. After high school, Smith left Georgia and moved to Miami, Florida, which he often refers to as “home.” He attended the University of Miami (UM) in Coral Gables, Florida, where he received his BA and MA degrees in psychology. He then worked as a psychotherapist at the South Dade Mental Health Center in Homestead, Florida.

While in his thirties, Isiah attended the University of Miami School of Law, where he served one year as the editor of The Slip Sheet. As a lawyer, he spent a short period in a multi-national law firm in Washington D.C. He later served in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). During the last twenty years of his career, he served as the deputy assistant general counsel for the Department of Energy.

Other activities included writing a weekly column for the Miami Times. Currently, he writes occasional essays for the Northern Express in Traverse City, where he resides. His life motto is based on the Japanese concept, Kaizen, “constant improvement”—striving always to get better.