Athens, Ga. – Michael Thurmond, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Labor, will give the 23rd annual Holmes-Hunter Lecture Wednesday, Jan. 9, at 2 p.m. in the UGA Chapel.
The lecture, which will be held on the 46th anniversary of UGA’s desegregation in 1961, is free and open to the public.
Established in 1985, the Holmes-Hunter Lecture honors Charlayne Hunter-Gault and the late Hamilton Holmes, the first African-American students to enroll at UGA. Lecture speakers focus on race relations, black history or aspects of higher education with implications for race relations.
In 1986, Thurmond, an Athens native, became the first African American elected to the Georgia General Assembly from Clarke County since Reconstruction. During his time in the legislature, he was the only African-American legislator elected from a majority white district. While serving in the General Assembly, Thurmond authored major legislation that has provided more than $200 million in tax relief to the state’s senior citizens and working families.
After his tenure in the General Assembly, he went on to direct Georgia’s historic transition from the Welfare-to-Work program. He created the innovative Workfirst program, which has helped more than 90,000 welfare-dependent Georgia families move into the workforce, saving more than $100 million tax dollars that have been reinvested in child care, 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 commissioner of the Georgia Department of Labor. In doing so, he became the first non-incumbent African American to be elected to statewide office in Georgia.
Under Thurmond’s leadership, the GDOL has undergone a significant transformation. Unemployment offices have been converted into career centers utilizing the latest technologies with a new emphasis on getting jobless Georgians back to work as quickly as possible.
Thurmond is also a distinguished attorney and author, and his latest book Freedom: Georgia’s Antislavery Heritage, 1733-1865, received the Georgia Historical Society’s Lilla Hawes Award.
Previous speakers for the Holmes-Hunter Lecture include Shirley Franklin, Nikki Giovanni, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Vernon Jordan and Andrew Young.