Meet the President
BUZZ THOMAS is President of the Great Schools Partnership. He is also a member of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) and Co-Chair of the Public School Forum of East Tennessee. Before coming to Knoxville, Mr. Thomas co-founded and served as Executive Director of the Niswonger Foundation. He is also a minister, attorney, author, teacher and community leader.
Mr. Thomas is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Tennessee where he graduated first in his class. He earned a Master of Divinity from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where he also graduated first in his class and was chosen as the school’s outstanding divinity student. Mr. Thomas received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Tennessee College of Law where he was Order of the Coif and earned his Master of Law from the University of Virginia.
As a minister, Rev. Thomas served churches in Tennessee and Louisiana.
As an attorney, Mr. Thomas has practiced at every level of state and federal courts including the United States Supreme Court. His clients have included the National Council of Churches, Southern Baptist Convention and Children’s Defense Fund. He has appeared as an expert witness before the Judiciary Committees of the United States Congress on numerous occasions.
As an educator, Mr. Thomas taught First Amendment Law at Georgetown University Law Center. He also has lectured at such universities as Harvard and Notre Dame. More recently, Mr. Thomas served on the Maryville Board of Education completing three years as its chairman. He has provided training to teachers and administrators from more than five hundred school districts from North Carolina to California.
As an author, Mr. Thomas co-authored The Right to Religious Liberty. He also co-authored Finding Common Ground, the First Amendment handbook endorsed by the Department of Education and used in many of the nation’s public schools. Mr. Thomas’s articles have appeared in a variety of national publications, and he has been a guest commentator on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, C-Span, and National Public Radio. He is also a columnist and member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today.
Buzz is married to the former Lisa Trammell of Oak Ridge and has two grown daughters, Rachel and Sarah.