Michael L. Williams was appointed Texas commissioner of education by Gov. Rick Perry on August 27, 2012. As commissioner, Mr. Williams heads the Texas Education Agency, which oversees pre-kindergarten through high school education for approximately 5 million students enrolled in public and charter schools. The agency also oversees basic adult education throughout the state.
Mr. Williams’ appointment as commissioner is the latest in what has been a lifetime of public service. After earning bachelor’s, master’s, and law degrees from the University of Southern California, Mr. Williams returned to his hometown of Midland, Texas, where he served as an assistant district attorney. He later became a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan, earning the attorney general’s Special Achievement Award for the conviction of six Ku Klux Klan members.
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush named Mr. Williams assistant secretary of education for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, where he acted as the principal advisor to the president and Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander on civil rights matters. He led the charge to establish much of the department’s policy still in effect today on increased investigative resources for issues such as the overrepresentation of minority males in special education, the underrepresentation of females in Advanced Placement curriculums, racial harassment on college campuses, and the treatment of limited-English proficiency students.
In 1998, Gov. George W. Bush appointed Williams to an unexpired term on the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oldest regulatory body. The three-member commission oversees oil and gas regulation. He was subsequently elected to this position in 2000, 2002, and 2008.
As commissioner of education, Mr. 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. He is a past honorary state chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas, chaired the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, and has served on the board of directors of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
The son of public school teachers, Mr. Williams is the creator and co-sponsor of Winnovators, a summer camp for 6th through 12th graders to help inspire the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians. Mr. Williams also narrates short stories for children, including the visually impaired and those with special needs.