A seventh generation Tennessean, he was born in Maryville, Tennessee as the son of a kindergarten teacher and elementary school principal.
Alexander served as Governor of Tennessee (1979-1987), president of the University of Tennessee (1988-1991), and United States Secretary of Education (1991-1993). He helped found a company that is now the nation's largest provider of worksite day care. He taught about the American character as a faculty member at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. In 2002, he won election to the U.S. Senate, the first Tennessean to be popularly elected both governor and senator.
Senator Alexander chairs the subcommittees on Children and Families, on Energy, on African Affairs, as well as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Caucus.
In his campaign for governor, Lamar Alexander walked 1,000 miles across Tennessee in his now famous red and black plaid shirt.
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.
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vanderbilt University and was a law review editor at New York University Law School. He then clerked for John Minor Wisdom of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, served as legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Howard Baker and worked for Bryce Harlow, counselor to President Richard Nixon.
He is married to the former Honey Buhler of Victoria, Texas. They have four children. The Alexanders' home is outside Maryville at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He is an elder in Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Alexander ran twice unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for president in 1996 and 2000.