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Auburn Brother Takes the Reins in Tennessee

William Byron “Bill” Lee (Nu–Auburn ’78) has been elected the 50th governor of Tennessee. Lee, a well-known business owner in Nashville and the surrounding areas, defeated Karl Dean, a lawyer who had been the mayor of Nashville until 2015.

Lee is a seventh-generation Tennessean who resides on his family’s longtime farm southwest of Nashville in Williamson County with his wife Maria. He attended Auburn University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He returned home to join the family business his grandfather started in 1944, Lee Company, a leading HVAC and home improvement business, moving up through the ranks to become CEO and eventually the chairman. Lee Company today employs more than 1,200 workers, and has won numerous awards for work culture and business accomplishments. Lee was named a “Most Admired CEO” in 2015 by the Nashville Business Journal, and Lee Company was chosen by the Tennessean newspaper as the best large company to work for three years in a row. He has four adult children by his first wife, who died in a horse-riding accident in 2000. He and Maria Lee have been married since 2008.

Lee is also active in Triple L Ranch, a fourth-generation family farm, which operates a 1,000-acre, 400-head Hereford cattle operation, providing natural beef to farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants throughout Middle Tennessee. A registered professional engineer, he has been active as a board member of several charitable organizations, and has traveled to various locations throughout the world to serve the needy through his involvement in faith-based ministries. Obviously many of these activities will be placed on the back burner for the next four years as Lee takes on his new job representing Tennessee’s population of nearly seven million.

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