BioLamar Alexander was born in Maryville, the son of a kindergarten teacher and an elementary school principal. He is a seventh-generation Tennessean.
He is the only Tennessean ever popularly elected both governor and U.S. Senator. He has been U.S. Education Secretary and University of Tennessee president. He chaired the National Governors Association and President Reagan's Commission on Americans Outdoors.
When elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002, Alexander had spent more adult years in the private sector than in public life. In 1972 he co-founded a Nashville law firm. In 1987 he and his wife and three others, including Bob Keeshan, television’s Captain Kangaroo, founded Corporate Child Care, Inc. The company became publicly traded in 1997 (NASDAQ) and later merged with Bright Horizons, Inc., creating the world’s largest provider of worksite daycare.
Three times between 2007 and 2012, his colleagues elected Sen. Alexander Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference — the third-ranking Republican position in the United States Senate. He is the ranking Senate Republican overseeing education, labor and health, as well as energy appropriations.
In his campaign for governor, Alexander walked 1,000 miles across Tennessee in his now-famous red and black plaid shirt. Once elected, he helped Tennessee become the third largest auto producer, the state with the top-rated four-lane highway system and the first state to pay teachers more for teaching well. He started Tennessee’s Governor’s Schools for outstanding students. When he left the governor’s office, the state had a Triple AAA bond rating, fewer employees and no long-term highway debt.
He is a classical and country pianist and the author of seven books, including Six Months Off, the story of his family’s life in Australia after he was governor.
Lamar Alexander and Honey Buhler were married in 1969. They have four children and six grandchildren. He is a Presbyterian elder.