At a Glance
- Career History: U.S. Senate (since January 2003); GOP presidential nominee (1996 and 2000); Education Secretary (1991 to 1993); Tennessee governor (1979 to 1987)
- Birthday: July 3, 1940
- Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
- Alma Mater: Vanderbilt University, B.A., 1962; New York University, J.D., 1965
- Spouse: Honey
- Religion: Presbyterian
- Committees: Ranking member, Rules and Administration ; Appropriations ; Health, Education and Labor ; Environment and Public Works
- DC Office: 455 Dirksen, 202-224-4944
- State Office: Chattanooga, 423-752-5337; Jackson, 731-423-9344; Knoxville, 865-545-4253; Memphis, 901-544-4224; Nashville, 615-736-5129; Tri-Cities, 423-325-6240
- Web site
Path to Power
Alexander grew up near the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.
After graduating from Vanderbilt and New York University Law School, Alexander volunteered for Howard Baker's (R) first Senate campaign in 1966. He worked on Baker's staff until getting a job in the White House under Bryce Harlow, President Richard Nixon's congressional liaison. In 1970, Alexander returned to his home state, where he managed the gubernatorial campaign for Winfield Dunn, who became the first Republican Tennessee governor in 50 years.
More moderate than most of his Senate colleagues, but certainly no Democrat, Alexander has called for more decentralized government, arguing that issues like welfare and education should be dictated by the states instead of the federal government. He voted with the Republicans 88.5 percent of the time in the 110th Congress.
Still, Alexander is best known for being willing to compromise with senators on the other side of the aisle. During confirmation hearings for President George W. Bush's Supreme Court justices, Alexander was one of the first to say he would vote up or down on all nominees, and wouldn't filibuster anyone. He has been at the forefront of the debate on climate change, calling for tougher restrictions on pollutants when many in the GOP won't acknowledge global warming as a serious issue, and he has pushed for education reform.
When working as an aide for then-Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.), Alexander lived briefly with another young aide named Trent Lott. He was close to Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson (R), and Thompson gave Alexander a heads-up before announcing his retirement in 2002.
Alexander's former chief of staff, Tom Ingram, was regularly identified as one of Congress' top 50 aides in Roll Call's "Fabulous Fifty," as is communications director Ryan Loskarn. Ingram has been friends with Alexander for four decades and was by Alexander's side on and off throughout that time.