Michael Thurmond


University of South Carolina School of Law, Columbia, South Carolina
  • J.D.

Paine College
  • Honors: With Honors
  • Major: Philosophy
  • Major: Religion

Areas of Practice

  • Personal Injury

Michael Thurmond


MICHAEL THURMOND is an attorney at Butler Wooten & Peak LLP, a nationally known civil trial practice firm that has four times set the record civil jury verdict in the State of Georgia and also obtained for its client the largest collected judgment in U.S. history. He has distinguished himself as an attorney, author, lecturer and public servant.

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 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.

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 labor commissioner, the Labor Department went under a significant transformation in customer service and efficiency. Unemployment offices were transformed into state-of-the-art Career Centers focused on getting jobless Georgians back to work as quickly as possible.

Thurmond took a two-year leave from BWP to serve as Superintendent to the DeKalb County School System, the third largest in Georgia.  He did a tremendous job in this capacity. Thurmond helped turn the troubled school district around with graduation rates rising from 57% to 62% in 2014 and turning the $14 million deficit into an $80 million surplus. He was quoted saying, “I’m a better person now than I was Feb. 8, 2013. I spent 35, 40 years in politics. From a very young man, I spent time with my eyes firmly fixed on the next election, even when I won. Here in DeKalb, I’ve been granted the privilege of focusing on the next generation. That’s so much more rewarding to me."

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. He and his wife Zola are the proud parents of a daughter, Mikaya.

Published Works

  • Freedom: Georgia's Antislavery Heritage, 1733-1865


  • Lecturer, University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government, 1997

Honors and Awards

  • Georgia Trend’s 100 Most Influential Georgians, 2014
  • First African-American elected to the Georgia General Assembly from Clarke County, 1986

Past Employment Positions

  • Dekalb County School System, Interim Superintendent
  • Georgia Labor Commissioner, 1998 - 2000

Pro Bono Activities

  • Board of Curators, Georgia Historical Society
  • Member, Ebenezer Baptist Church West of Athens