Retired Army General Maxwell R. Thurman is a High Point native who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from North Carolina State University in 1953.
After a distinguished military career that spanned 38 years, Thurman retired from the Army in 1991. One of the few non-West Point graduates to reach the four-star rank, Thurman was a principal architect of the all-volunteer Army. He played a major role in reshaping the Army’s image and recruitment success with the advertising campaign, “Be All That You Can Be–In the Army.”
He probably will be best remembered, however, as commander of “Operation Just Cause,” the invasion of Panama in 1989. As head of the U.S. Southern Command, Thurman orchestrated what was at the time the largest U.S. Military maneuver since the Vietnam War.
During his career, Thurman held a variety of command and staff positions both overseas and in the United States. He commanded light artillery and rocket units and served as an intelligence officer in Europe, served in the Middle East during the 1958 Lebanon crisis, and twice served in Vietnam.
Thurman commanded the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery, and from 1979 to 1981 was commander of the Army Recruiting Command. He was appointed vice chief of staff in 1983 and served as the Joint Chief of Staff in the absence of the chief of staff. In 1987 he assumed command of the Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va. He is credited with molding the Army’s “Air-Land” battle doctrine to capitalize on the sophisticated weapon systems and highly trained soldiers.
In 1991, Thurman was named executive-in-residence in what was then the NCSU Division of Economics and Business, now the NCSU College of Management. In that position, he helped design and participate in outreach programs to the local business community.