Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Lamar Alexander (1991–1993): Secretary of Education

Lamar Alexander was born on July 3, 1940 in Maryville, Tennessee. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vanderbilt University (B.A., 1962) and from the New York University School of Law (J.D., 1965).

Alexander clerked for U.S. circuit judge Minor Wisdom of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana (1965-1966). In 1967, he served as legislative assistant for U.S. Senator Howard Baker. Two years later, he worked for Bryce Harlow, executive assistant to President Nixon. Alexander returned to Tennessee to run for governor in 1974, but was defeated in the general election by then-Governor Blanton.

In 1978, he again ran for governor, defeating Blanton, who was later indicted on charges of selling pardons for cash. Upon his reelection to the governorship, Alexander became the first Tennessee governor to serve successive four-year terms. During his time as president of the University of Tennessee (1988-1991), Alexander was a member of President George Bush's Education Advisory Committee (1989-1990).

Alexander left his post at Tennessee to succeed Lauro Cavazos as education secretary on January 21, 1991. Following his time in the cabinet, Alexander became a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute (1994-1995) and taught as Goodman Visiting Professor at Harvard University's School of Government (2001-2002).

During the course of his career, Alexander has held a number of advisory posts, including stints on the Commission on Educational Assessment (chair, 1986), the Knight Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics (1990), and the National Council on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal (1997). Alexander is also a classical pianist and has played the Grand Ole Opry.