Michael Thurmond to Serve as Keynote Speaker at 2012 Commencement Ceremony

Michael ThurmondMichael Thurmond is the Keynote Speaker for Reinhardt University’s commencement ceremony on April 28, 2012. A distinguished attorney, author, lecturer and public servant, Thurmond currently serves as Of Counsel to the law firm of Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer LLP.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to have the Honorable Michael Thurmond as our Commencement Speaker,” said Dr. J. Thomas Isherwood, Reinhardt president. “Mr. Thurmond has a history of service to the citizens of Georgia as he served effectively as Commission of Labor for 12 years, resigning in 2010 to run for the United States Senate. He is a dynamic speaker who places importance on living life with commitment to values, and I am confident that his message will be meaningful to our graduates.”

Thurmond Background

Legislative Tenure

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, Thurmond 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.

Workfirst Program

Following his tenure in the legislature, Thurmond was called upon to direct Georgia’s historic transition from welfare to work. He created the innovative Workfirst program, which has helped over 90,000 welfare-dependent Georgia families move into the workforce, saving more than $100 million in tax dollars that have been reinvested in childcare, training and other support services.

Georgia Labor Commissioner

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. During his three terms as commissioner, Labor Department unemployment offices were transformed into state-of-the-art Career Centers focused on getting jobless Georgians back to work as quickly as possible.

Distinguished Author

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.

Thurmond is a member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church West of Athens, Ga. He and his wife, Zola, are the proud parents of a daughter, Mikaya.