D.C. policymaker Jim Free returns home to share kn...

D.C. policymaker Jim Free returns home to share knowledge with MTSU students

As a way of giving back to his alma mater, a successful policymaker who served in the Carter White House and later as a government relations professional is returning to MTSU as a visiting professor.

alumnus Jim Free

Jim Free

Jim Free, co-founder of The Smith-Free Group LLC, will be a Distinguished Visiting Professor for the 2018-19 academic year. He is slated to speak to more than 230 students in political science, recording industry and business law classes on Wednesday, Sept. 26, and political science and history classes on Thursday, Sept. 27.

“I am honored to be asked to be a visiting professor,” Free said. “MTSU changed my life. It was a great education and a great experience.”

Free said he wants the students to understand not only the importance of education but also the importance of the university as a socialization experience, helping students learn about interactions among people.

Free served as MTSU student body president in 1968 and earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 1969 and his master’s degree in public administration in 1972, both from MTSU. After graduation, he served as the university’s director of admissions and later became a vice president’s assistant at the University of Tennessee.

A former administrative assistant to Tennessee House of Representatives Speaker Ned McWherter, Free ascended to chief clerk of the House and became president of the American Society of House Chief Clerks and Senate Secretaries.

In 1977, Free served in President Jimmy Carter’s administration as special assistant to the president for congressional affairs. Issues for which Free argued the administration’s perspectives included the Clean Air Act, the Alaska Lands Act and national energy legislation.

Before co-founding The Smith-Free Group in 1995, Free served as vice chairman of Walker-Free Associates. With both groups he had represented major global companies in the arenas of health care, financial services, transportation, energy and entertainment over a span of three decades.

Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes

Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes

“Jim is at the pinnacle of an important policy-making career in Washington, and for him to volunteer his time and his talent as a distinguished visiting professor shows his deep commitment to MTSU and its students,” said Dr. Louis Kyriakoudes, director of MTSU’s Albert Gore Research Center and a history professor.

Free returned to campus last fall to serve as a guest speaker for one of Kyriakoudes’ classes as well as three political science courses taught by Kent Syler, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations.

For more information on Free’s schedule, contact Syler at 615-898-5625 or

— Gina Logue (