Gov. Bill Haslam has announced that Dwight E. Tarwater will join his senior team as general counsel. Tarwater replaces Herbert Slatery who left the administration in October to become the state’s attorney general.
Tarwater, 59, currently practices law in Knoxville in the law firm he helped begin in 1987, Paine, Tarwater and Bickers, LLP. He has vast courtroom experience, having tried cases locally, across the state of Tennessee, and in several other states. On appeal, he has represented clients before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, the Tennessee Supreme Court and in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 4th, 6th, 10th, and 11th Circuits.
“I am very grateful to Dwight for his willingness to leave behind a highly successful career and the firm he has built from the ground up to join our staff,” Haslam said. “His legal acumen, courtroom experience and steady demeanor will be assets to our senior team.”
A Knoxville native, Tarwater is listed in four separate categories in this year’s edition of the Best Lawyers in America, which is compiled through an exhaustive peer review survey of thousands of top lawyers across the country. He was first listed in 2002 and has since been named Lawyer of the Year for the Knoxville area five times.
“I am honored to serve Gov. Haslam and his administration as he continues to lead our state forward to even greater success, and I am humbled by his confidence in me,” Tarwater said.
He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee, where he was elected a Torchbearer, the university’s highest honor. He received his law degree from the University of Tennessee College Of Law. He served as law clerk to the Honorable Houston M. Goddard of the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
Tarwater has been a member of the Knoxville, Tennessee and American Bar Associations since his licensure in 1980. He served as president of the Knoxville Barristers (Young Lawyers Division) in 1987 and on its Board of Governors from 1986 until 1988. He served for nine years on the board of governors of the Knoxville Bar Association, as the bar’s secretary in 1988, president-elect in 1999 and as president in 2000. He served as East Tennessee governor of the Tennessee Bar Association in 1991-92 and on the board of the Tennessee Young Lawyers Conference in 1986-87.
He is a member of the Tennessee Association for Justice, the Defense Research Institute, the International Association of Defense Counsel, Litigation Counsel of America and the Trial Attorneys of America. In 2006, he became a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.
He and his firm have made pro bono representation a priority. He has served on the board of directors of the Knoxville Legal Aid Society, Volunteer Legal Assistance Program, and Pro Bono Project. His firm has been honored with the Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year Award presented by Legal Aid of East Tennessee in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
He was a member of the 2002 Class of Leadership Knoxville and is a current board member of the East Tennessee Foundation.
Tarwater was married to the late Mary Flowers Tarwater for 34 years and has three children: Davis, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist; Katherine Freeman, a fourth grade teacher in Knox County; and Dwight, a basketball player at the University of California, Berkeley.
His first day in the governor’s office will be Monday, December 8.