Otha Thornton

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Notes from the Backpack Podcast


Otha ThortonOtha Thornton was installed as the first African-American male president of National PTA at the June 2013 National PTA Convention and Exhibition in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel.  His last two assignments were with the White House Communications Agency and United States Forces-Iraq in Baghdad. Thornton earned the Bronze Star Medal for exceptional performance in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2009-2010.

Previously, Thornton served on National PTA's Board of Directors, Legislative Committee, Membership Committee, and Executive Search Committee. During his time with Georgia PTA, Otha served on the Board of Directors as legislative chair and as an Advisory Group member for Georgia's Partnership for Excellence in Education. He has taught at Athens Technical College in Athens, Georgia and Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan.

Thornton also served Maryland PTA as nominating leader, board development committee chairman, and as a member of Anne Arundel County’s Superintendent High Performing High School Task Force. In addition, he was appointed by the governor of Maryland to serve on a Maryland Education Task Force.

Thornton’s military background allowed him to volunteer throughout the country and the world at various local and council levels. Thornton served as president and vice president) of Meade Senior High School PTSA at Fort Meade, Maryland. He has also been a volunteer at Kaiserslautern American Elementary and Middle School PTAs, Department of Defense Education Activity, Vogelweh Air Force Base, Kaiserslautern, Germany; South Range Elementary School, South Range, Michigan; Houghton Elementary and Middle Schools, Houghton, Michigan; Fernandez Elementary School PTA events, San Antonio, Texas; and Ballou High School in our nation’s Capitol.

Thornton is also active in the community. He is a member of the Renaissance Church of Christ in Atlanta, Georgia and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. He is a life member of the National Eagle Scout Association and has more than 30 years of active service in the scouting program across the United States and around the world. He has numerous achievement awards including the National PTA and National 4-H Lifetime Achievement Awards.

Thornton received his bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Morehouse College and a master’s degree in communications from Michigan Technological University. He was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Michigan Technological University in 2009. Thornton is married to Luana Kelly Thornton, a retired educator.