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Michael L. Thurmond is the superintendent of the DeKalb County School District, the third largest district in the state of Georgia. The district serves nearly 99,000 students with over 13,400 employees. He is currently on leave from the Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer law firm. Thurmond was the Democratic Party's nominee for United States Senate in 2010.
Thurmond was raised as a sharecropper's son in Clarke County, Georgia. He graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Paine College and later earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of South Carolina 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 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 into the workforce.
In 1997, Thurmond became a distinguished lecturer at the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government. The following year in November, 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 Barack 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 school for young people with disabilities at the historic Roosevelt Institute in Warm Springs, Georgia.
He is the recipient of two honorary doctorate degrees from Clark Atlanta University and LaGrange College. Thurmond has also served as a motivational speaker to state school board associations 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. The Georgia Center for the Book listed Freedom as one of The 25 Books All Georgian's Should Read. He presently serves on the Board of Curators of the Georgia Historical Society. He is married to Zola Fletcher Thurmond, and they have one daughter, Mikaya Thurmond.