Alexander Statement on the Passing of Lewis Donelson

Posted on January 4, 2018

MARYVILLE, Tenn., January 4, 2018 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on the passing of Lewis R. Donelson III, co-founder of Baker Donelson law firm:

“During his 100 years, Lewie Donelson was one of Tennessee’s most accomplished lawyers and finest public servants. He was my first appointee when I was elected governor because I knew that if someone of Lewie’s stature agreed to be the chief operating officer of state government that would attract other talented cabinet members.

“No other family’s thread runs more proudly through Tennessee’s history than Lewie’s -- from his ancestor John Donelson’s river trip to Nashville in 1779 to Andrew Jackson’s marriage to John’s daughter, Rachel, to Jackson’s founding of Memphis and then to Lewie’s life of distinguished public service.

“Lewie and his late wife Jan were close friends. Honey and I send our sympathy to members of the Donelson family.”


“I had been sworn in three days early on January 17, 1979, to prevent the incumbent governor from issuing pardons to prisoners whom the FBI believed had paid cash for their release. Lewie offered the prayer at that surprise inauguration. One of my first acts was to direct him to take charge of and secure the state Capitol. Someone said, ‘Lewie has been waiting his whole life for someone to ask him to do that.’

“Eight years ago, when he was 92, Lewie shot a hole-in-one in golf. Six years ago, he was still shooting his age in golf. He told me then that his doctor could find nothing physically wrong with him and that he took no medicine.    

“He had his own opinions. About the only thing I was ever able to tell Lewie was to stop driving his car to the Capitol while reading a newspaper, and he only stopped that after he ran into the back of another car.

“Lewie’s negotiating style became well known around the state Capitol. He would knock you to the floor with his first offer. By the time you had gotten halfway back up you would have agreed with him and considered that a success."

Mr. Donelson served as Commissioner of Finance and Chief Operating Officer for the State of Tennessee under Governor Lamar Alexander from 1979 to 1981.