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Michael Thurmond has distinguished himself as an attorney, author, lecturer and public servant. He is currently practicing law with Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer LLP, one of America's most successful civil trial practice law firms.
Thurmond graduated with honors from Paine College with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and religion and later earned a juris doctorate from the University of South Carolina's School of Law. He also completed the Political Executives program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
In 1986, he became the first African-American elected to the Georgia General Assembly from Clarke County since Reconstruction. During his legislative tenure, Thurmond authored major legislation that has provided more than $250 million in tax relief to Georgia's senior citizens and working families.
Following his legislative service, Thurmond was called upon to lead the nine thousand employee state Division of Family and Children's Services and direct Georgia's historic transition from welfare to work. He created the innovative Work First program, which helped over 90,000 welfare-dependent Georgia families move from dependence to independence.
In 1997, Thurmond became a distinguished lecturer at the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The following year, he was elected Georgia Labor Commissioner, becoming the first non-incumbent African American to be elected to statewide office in Georgia.
During his three terms as commissioner, the Georgia Labor Department underwent a major transformation in customer service and efficiency. His Georgia Works program has earned national praise and bi-partisan support. President Obama based part of the American Jobs Act after the Georgia Works model. However, Thurmond's most gratifying accomplishment as a public official was the construction of a $20 million state-of-the art school for young people with disabilities at the historic Roosevelt Institute in Warm Springs, Georgia.
The son of Georgia sharecroppers, Thurmond is an enthusiastic advocate for public education. He is a motivational speaker and advisor to state school board association executives in nine Southern states on issues regarding leadership, diversity and public education advocacy in the 21st century.
Thurmond's latest book, Freedom: Georgia's Antislavery Heritage, 1733-1865, was awarded the Georgia Historical Society's Lilla Hawes Award and the Georgia Center for the Book listed Freedom as one of The 25 Books All Georgians Should Read. He presently serves on the Board of Curators of the Georgia Historical Society.