Thomas E. Persons Sr., Chairman

President and CEO
The Prism Group, LLC
AT&T Senior Executive for the South Atlantic Area (Retired)
South Carolina Technology Alliance


Mr. Persons was born in Savannah, Georgia, and grew up in Brunswick, 60 miles south. He graduated from Glynn Academy.  He attended Brunswick College now (College of Coastal Georgia) where he majored in business and marketing and was President of the Student Government and class president. He continued his education at the University of Georgia and Mercer University in Business Administration and Marketing.  He is a big Georgia Bulldawg fan, but since moving to Columbia S.C., he has become an avid supporter of the Gamecocks and the Tigers, except when they play UGA.  He is a 1980 graduate of Emory University’s Graduate School of Business Administration’s Executive Management Program.

Mr. Persons was selected by AT&T in 1982 for an Aspen Institute Fellowship on Humanist Studies.  He also completed the AT&T Key Executive Management Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Cambridge Institute.  Tom previously lived in Atlanta, Georgia where he held various jobs with Southern Bell and AT&T. He was recognized by both Southern Bell and AT&T’s GBCS as one of their leading executives. He has received numerous awards and honors from both companies.  At AT&T he is one of only two executives at his management level to be recognized for five years in AT&T’s Leaders Council and was the AT&T General Manager of the year for 6 years. In 1983, he received the prestigious AT&T Corporate “E” award for excellence in sales and marketing leadership. On January 1, 1990, he was promoted to General Manager for the South Atlantic Area, which included Georgia, North, and South Carolina, and until November 1993, he commuted between Atlanta and Columbia.  On November 1, 1993, AT&T announced his return to the Carolinas to open a new market area “Carolina States Area”, which includes North and South Carolina.

On February 23, 1996, he announced that after 30 years in the communications industry, he had decided to retire from AT&T / Lucent Technologies.

On Feb. 24, 1996, he was asked to join a high-tech business in the banking and financial industry, Affinity Technology Group Inc. (AFFI) NASDAQ, as Executive Vice President where he also served as one of the founding members of the Board of Directors and helped take the company public.  The company raised $60 million and was one of the most successful and larger IPO rounds that year. On Sept. 1, 1997, Tom left Affinity to start his own business, Prism Communications, LLC, where he serves as CEO.  During the first quarter of 1998, he was asked by The Governor’s Technology Advisory Council to form The South Carolina Technology Alliance, a private-public nonprofit 501 c 3 corporation, where he is currently serving as the President & CEO.   

Tom was very involved in the community and civic affairs while living in Atlanta.  In 1981, he was selected as one of the five Outstanding Young Business Leaders in Atlanta.  He is a life member of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and served as Chairman of the President’s Committee for the Atlanta Chamber.  He has served as President of Sales & Marketing Executives of Atlanta (SME-A) and was awarded the T. Elbert Clemmons Award. This is the highest award given to an SME Member.  SME-A was also selected by the SME-I Association as International Association’s Prism Award for leadership during Mr. Persons’ year as Chairman. This is SMEI’s highest award.   

Tom is a 1981 Graduate of Leadership Georgia and has served as a member of the Department of Management Advisory Board for the University of Georgia and the Advisory Board for the College of Arts and Sciences at Clemson University.

Tom has lived in Columbia, South Carolina for 35 years and has continued his business and civic leadership.  He served as Chairman of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, President of the Spring Valley Education Foundation, and was inducted into the Order of Thor.  He was a founding trustee of Cities in Schools, a founding member of The Palmetto Project, and a founder and member of The Board of Governors of the Capital City Club, where he served as Chairman Emeritus and a member of the Board of the Columbia Museum of Art.  He is a past President of the South Carolina State Museum Foundation where he served for two years, the year before the grand opening and the following year.  In 1991, Mr. Persons was awarded the highest honor bestowed by the South Carolina Arts Commission, the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award for Excellence in Business and the Arts. He served as a member of the board of directors for the Humanities Council of South Carolina for five years. 

 The University of South Carolina’s School of Business honored Persons with their highest award as their Beta Gamma Sigma honoree and was also awarded an honorary membership into the Golden Key National Honor Society.   

He has served as a board member for the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the Columbia World Affairs Council, and the Columbia Downtown Business Association, where he was one of the members instrumental in creating the Columbia Business Improvement District (BID), he was an as foundering board member for the Milton National Bank of Atlanta.   

Tom was appointed to serve South Carolina as a member of the Commission on the Future of South Carolina by Gov. Campbell and Lt. Governor Nick Theodore.  The Commission report was made to the joint session of the Legislature in February 1988. He also served South Carolina as a member of the Policy and Planning Coordination Commission. Governor Campbell appointed Tom as one of his representatives on the Business and Education Partnership for Excellence in Education for South Carolina, which he chaired.  He is serving in his 12th year as a Trustee for Columbia College, is a Board Member for The Governor’s School for Math and Science Foundation, and a Founding member of the Business Advisory Board, The Midlands Tech Foundation, Downtown Business Improvement Board/The City Center Board, and the Governors’ Technology Transition Team. He was also selected by the state’s Executive Institute to serve as the 2000 private business leader member of the Institute. He is serving as an Advisory Board Member for the Commission on Minority Affairs and serves on the Board of The Women’s Entrepreneur Business Center, and The State History and Archives Foundation. He is serving as a member of the High School Redesign Commission as one of State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum’s appointees.     On May 15, 1996, Governor David M. Beasley awarded Mr. Persons with The Order of The Palmetto and designated him a Palmetto Gentleman, the State of South Carolina’s highest civilian award and honor given by a South Carolina Governor.  He represented South Carolina as a member of Team South Carolina three times under Gov. Beasley, Gov. Hodges, and Gov. Sanford as a delegate to the SEUS Japan and SEUS Korea Economic Summits.   

He was appointed by Governor Hodges as his representative to the Southern Technology Council, which he chaired in 2001. He is a member of the board of EPSCoR SC and the State Archives Foundation Board.   He is a member of the Columbia Rotary Club, The University Associates, and has served on the Dean’s Council for the School of Engineering and Information Technology, the advisory board for the Southern Growth Policies Board.  He has written numerous articles and papers on technology and economic development.  He is one of South Carolina’s most highly quoted technology leaders. He was selected by the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s Information Technology Council as their 2004 honoree for the Palmetto Pillar Award for leadership and personal achievement for his work as the state’s spokesman for technology leadership and his work as CEO of the South Carolina Technology Alliance.  

Gov. Hodges also appointed Tom to serve as one of seven official state delegates to represent South Carolina in our first official state visit to Queensland, Australia, as a guest of Premier Peter Beattie. He continues his work with Premier Beattie and Queensland’s drive to be a Biotech world leader. 

Mr. Persons was asked by Governor Mark Sanford to serve as a member of his economic development transition team, where he served as the Chairman of the Venture Capital Committee, he co-drafted the South Carolina Venture Capital Investment Act / Senate Bill 590 for our state 50 million dollars. He was also influential in the drafting of the Knowledge-Based Economic Development Plan for our state.  He was appointed to the South Carolina Venture Capital Authority by the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Chairman. Tom is currently serving his third term on the Authority. He also served as a special member of the Governor’s 2005 budget committee, where he chaired the Information Technology Expense Reduction Committee.  This committee recommended more than 23 million dollars in IT savings and expense reductions. He continued his service when asked again to serve on the Governor’s budget review for the 2007-2008 executive budget planning. He has served our state’s last three Governors as their appointee to the Southern Technology Council where he continues his service for Governor Sanford.       

 Tom is the publisher of The Terabyte, a technology newsletter that covers the technology news around our state and is our source for South Carolina’s progress as an innovation state by tracking our patent results.   Tom serves on the business boards of, Black River Ventures, LLC, Factory Systems, LLC, South Carolina Technology Alliance, Inc.  Pandora Networks, WP Media, Inc., and chairs the boards of New Horizons Capital Group, LLC, The Global Trading Consortium, LLC.  He served as a founding member of South Carolina’s first venture capital company, Trelys Venture Partners, and is a founding member of the International Center for Birds of Prey. 

The South Carolina Research Authority awarded Persons their prestigious “Knowledge Economist” for outstanding leadership in the development and advancement of the knowledge economy. This award recognizes outstanding individuals in our society, who have made significant contributions to the advancement of the Knowledge Economy in our Nation and South Carolina. 

Persons served as Chairman, Founder, and Organizer for Touchmark Bancshares Holding Company as well as Chairman of Touchmark National Bank which was approved by the OCC in mid-2007.  Under Persons’ leadership, this public company bank (TMNK) opened with $31.4 million in Capital and grew to over $150 million during one of the most difficult periods ever faced in the banking industry. Persons retired from the Touchmark board in March 2010.  

Tom is married to Cathy Carmichael Persons, and they have three wonderful children: Thomas E. Persons, Jr., a 1997 graduate of the University of South Carolina’s MIBA graduate school.  Mary Ashley Persons, a 1996 Furman University graduate of USC, where earned a double Master of Science degree. Amanda Catherine Persons, a Spring Valley High School graduate, owns her own business, Eagle Peak Dressage. She has trained with Anky van Grunsven, a five-time world champion and twice the Olympic Gold Medal Winner worked and trained with Sven Rothenberger, former World Cup Dressage Champion, and with Michelle Gibson, the ranking USA Dressage Olympian. Amanda is an Olympic Dressage Team hopeful. Tom’s favorite pastime activities are working in the community, sailing his boat, “Fantasy”, photography, reading, working with small technology startups, and supporting Amanda’s goal for the United States Olympics. Tom’s greatest joy of all is spending time with his six grandchildren. 


Tom served as Chairman of the Midlands Tech Foundation and currently serves as Trustee Emeritus.

Tom served as the Chairman of the Board and founder for five years of the Chandler School in Greenville SC.

Tom was one of the 4 founders of the Columbia Economic Club in 1994

The Order of the Palmetto is the state’s highest civilian honor awarded to citizens of South Carolina for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. The Order of the Palmetto is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement.

Tom was appointed by Senator Leatherman to the ExceptionalSC board.  Tom served as Chairman of the board of directors and has led this scholarship for the granting program for four years.  ExceptionalSC has awarded more than $70 million in scholarships for 8,000 special needs children.  ExceptionalSC board wrote bill 4077 that passed both the House and the Senate with 100% favorable votes no nays. Act 247 which was signed into law by Governor McMasters on May 17, 2018.

Congratulations to Exceptional SC Chairman Tom Persons for receiving the highest award given by the South Carolina Independent School Association: The John W. Folsom Award for outstanding contributions to independent education.

Thomas E. Persons Sr

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