Michael Williams was appointed Texas commissioner of education by Gov. Rick Perry on Sept. 1, 2012. As commissioner, Williams heads the Texas Education Agency, which oversees pre-kindergarten through high school education for more than five million students enrolled in both traditional public schools and charter schools.
Williams’ appointment as commissioner is the latest in what has been a lifetime of public service. After earning a Bachelor’s, Master’s and law degree from the University of Southern California, Williams returned to his hometown of Midland, Texas, where he served as an assistant district attorney. He went on to become a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice, earning the Attorney General’s Special Achievement Award for the conviction of six Ku Klux Klan members. Williams prosecuted the KKK cases under heavy armed guard after receiving death threats.
President George H.W. Bush appointed Williams as deputy assistant secretary for law enforcement at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Williams had policy oversight responsibility for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Customs Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
In 1990, President Bush named Williams the assistant secretary of education for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education. He led the charge to establish much of the DOE policy still in effect today regarding increased investigative resources to issues such as the overrepresentation of minority males in special education, the underrepresentation of females in advanced placement courses, racial harassment on college campuses, and the treatment of limited-English proficient students.
In 1998, Gov. George W. Bush appointed Williams to an unexpired term on the Railroad Commission of Texas, the oldest regulatory body in this state. The three-member commission oversees oil and gas regulation. Texans subsequently elected him to this position in 2000, 2002 and 2008. He became the first African American in Texas history elected to a position in the Executive Branch of Texas Government.
Because Williams is known as a calm leader during a crisis, Gov. Perry selected him as his designee in 2005 to lead the state’s long-term relief efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Williams also initiated the Texas response to the tragedy in Darfur.
He is a past honorary state chairman of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas. He chaired the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission.
He previously served as an adjunct professor at Texas Southern University in the School of Public Affairs, the University of Texas at the Permian Basin, and the Texas Wesleyan School of Law.
Commissioner Williams serves as the Governor’s appointee to the Southern Regional Education Board, the OneStar National Service Commission, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, and the Education Commission of the States.
Williams was the creator and co-sponsor of “Winnovators,” a summer camp for 6th through 12th graders to inspire the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. Williams also narrates short stories for children of all ages, including the visually impaired and those with special needs.
No stranger to the challenges and opportunities of business and industry, Williams served on the Board of Directors of both the Midland (1980-1984) and Arlington Chamber of Commerce (1996-1999). He is the outgoing chairman of the Business School Advisory Council at the University of Texas at the Permian Basin.
Williams is the son of public school teachers, who earned degrees in math, and the husband of a mechanical engineer.