Otha Thornton is a native of Elberton, a small rural community in the Appalachian zone of northeast Georgia. His family has resided in Georgia for over eight generations but has seen their children grow to travel across the world and throughout the country.
Otha earned his degrees from Morehouse College and Michigan Technological University. Following college, he enlisted and served for over two decades in the United States Army. Otha retired from active duty with the rank of United States Army Lieutenant Colonel. During his military career, Otha served as Presidential Communications Officer and J1 Director with the White House Communications Agency under Republican and Democratic administrations and Chief of Personnel Operations for the United States Forces-Iraq in Baghdad. Otha earned the Bronze Star Medal for exceptional performance in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2009-2010.
Otha’s service extended beyond the military – recognizing the way that education could change stories and nourish hope and opportunity. He has dedicated his life to serving and uplifting people, including that of taking a position as Assistant Professor at Michigan Technological University, where he was recognized by students and the university for outstanding performance and service. Otha has worked with teachers, principals, educators, and state and district level superintendents around the United States and the world in improving the lives of children and their families. Otha has worked with the White House, the United States Department of Education, the United States Congress, and the Georgia Assembly as an education advocate and has ably led and served in shaping and improving state, national, and international education policies and practices. Otha’s most recent endeavors include leading national efforts that resulted in the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, and in Georgia, the defeat of the Opportunity School District ballot initiative, where he served as a key planner, organizer, and speaker.
Otha was the 2013-2015 President of the National Parent Teacher Association, the largest and oldest child advocacy association in the United States serving millions of children and their families. During this time, he also served on the Public Broadcasting Service Advisory Board, where, he advised the corporation on education television programming for two seasons. Otha also served on the GenYouth Board that worked around the country in promoting healthy nutrition and fitness for children through the NFL Play60 program. Otha served on the National Football League’s Heads-Up Advisory Board. In recent years, he worked with By Kids For Kids, a nonprofit organization, and Warren Buffett, as a business judge for a national elementary and middle level child entrepreneur competition.
Otha was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Michigan Technological University. Otha served as a member of Anne Arundel County’s Superintendent High Performing High School Task Force. Otha was appointed by the Fort Meade Garrison Commander to serve on the base Education Committee and representative with the Fort Meade Alliance, a multibillion dollar group of over one hundred businesses and community partners that worked together in earning the encompassing school districts, top schools in the nation. Otha was later appointed by the Governor of Maryland to serve on a Maryland Education Task Force.
Currently, he is the Principal Consultant for the Thornton Consulting Group and also a military contractor with General Dynamics Information Technology at Fort Stewart, Georgia. He serves as a Director on the Michigan Tech University Honors College Advisory Board; and an Advisory Group member for Georgia’s Partnership for Excellence in Education. He is the Education Chair for the Bryan County Democratic Party and is active in state education advocacy efforts. He is also active with his church and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated and the American Legion. Otha has been married for over 28 years to the former Caryn Dukes, who is from Atlanta, Georgia. Caryn is a career educator and administrator. They have two adult children, a son who is an Army Officer currently deployed overseas and a daughter who is a retail manager who resides in Texas.
Otha is a life member of the National Eagle Scout Association and has more than 25 years of active service in the United States and around the world. He has won numerous awards and recognitions including: the 2017 National 4-H Luminary, Ebony’s 2013 Power 100 List, the Morehouse College Alumnus of the Year, the Michigan Technological University Outstanding Young Alumni Award, the Kentucky Colonel award recipient, the Eagle Scout Award, and over a dozen lifetime achievement and membership awards from State PTAs across the country.