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Harlan Mathews
Senator Harlan Mathews (D-TN).jpg
United States Senator
from Tennessee
In office
January 2, 1993 – December 1, 1994
Appointed by Ned McWherter
Preceded by Al Gore
Succeeded by Fred Thompson
38th Tennessee State Treasurer
In office
March 31, 1974 – January 17, 1987
Governor Winfield Dunn
Ray Blanton
Lamar Alexander
Preceded by Thomas A. Wiseman, Jr.
Succeeded by Steve Adams
Personal details
Born (1927-01-17)January 17, 1927
Sumiton, Alabama, U.S.
Died May 9, 2014(2014-05-09) (aged 87)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Resting place Harpeth Hills Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Pat Jones
Children Stanley Mathews
Lester Mathews
Richard Mathews
Alma mater Jacksonville State University
Vanderbilt University
Profession Lawyer
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service 1944–1946

Harlan Mathews (January 17, 1927 – May 9, 2014) was a Democratic United States Senator from Tennessee from 1993 to 1994. He had previously served in the executive and legislative branches of state government in Tennessee for more than 40 years beginning in 1950.

Early life and education

Harlan Mathews was a native of Walker County, Alabama. He was born January 17, 1927, in Sumiton, Alabama, the son of John William Mathews and Lillian (Young) Mathews. In 1944, after high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served until 1946. Returning to Alabama, he graduated from Jacksonville State College (now Jacksonville State University) with a B.A. degree in 1949.

After graduating, Mathews obtained a master's degree in public administration from Vanderbilt University in 1950. He began work on Governor Gordon Browning's planning staff. When Frank G. Clement was elected in 1954, Mathews moved to the state's budget staff. A year after beginning his service as commissioner of finance and administration in 1961, he completed his law degree in 1962 from the YMCA Night Law School, now Nashville School of Law.

Early political career

Mathews joined the staff of the governor of Tennessee in 1950, serving governors Gordon Browning, Frank G. Clement, and Buford Ellington. From 1961-1971 he served as commissioner of finance and administration.

In January 1971, Mathews left the cabinet and entered the private sector for two years, working for Amcon International in Memphis. In 1973, he became the legislative assistant to longtime Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Bill Snodgrass. In 1974, Mathews was elected state treasurer by the Tennessee General Assembly when his predecessor, Tom Wiseman, resigned to run for governor. The Tennessee General Assembly elected him to his first full two-year term as treasurer in 1975, where he served until January 1987, when he became deputy to Governor Ned R. McWherter.

U.S. Senate

In 1993, Governor Ned McWherter appointed Mathews to the U.S. Senate following the resignation of Al Gore, who resigned to serve as Vice President of the United States. Upon appointing Mathews to the senate, McWherter announced Mathews’ role would be one of caretaker, to allow those who wanted to run for the position to prepare their campaigns. Mathews had no ambition of running for election to the U.S. Senate.

In December 1994, Mathews left office and resumed a law practice in Nashville, Tennessee.


Mathews died of brain cancer on May 9, 2014, at a hospice in Nashville. He was survived by his wife, Pat, and two sons. A third son, Richard Mathews, preceded him in death.

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