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Don Schanche

Georgia commissioner of labor, state representative, and lawyer, was born in Athens, Georgia, the youngest of nine children of Sidney and Vanilla Thurmond. His parents were sharecroppers.

Athens is home to the University of Georgia, which remained segregated until Thurmond was eight years old. Thurmond's home in rural Clarke County was a world away from the university. He recalled, “I was sixteen before we got an indoor bathroom” (author's interview with Thurmond, 2005). But his parents made education a priority. All the Thurmond children finished high school and four of them—including Michael—finished college.

Thurmond attended segregated schools until his senior year in high school, when the county schools were consolidated in 1971. The black high school, Burney Harris was slated for closure not integration and Thurmond led an unsuccessful protest against the closing When the school board sought and won an injunction to ...