Bill Purcell

A founding partner of Farmer Purcell White & Lassiter, PLLC, Bill Purcell has spent more than 30 years in law, public service, and higher education. During his eight-year tenure as Mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee (1999-2007) the city saw unprecedented economic expansion, an increase in Metro school funding of more than 50 percent, and the development and preservation of more than 26,000 affordable housing units. He was elected to his second term as mayor by a record-setting 84.8 percent of the vote. Mr. Purcell’s accomplishments as a civic leader earned him Public Official of the Year honors in 2006 by Governing Magazine. During his term, Nashville was ranked as the number one city for corporate headquarters and twice ranked as the hottest city in America for expansion and relocation of business.

Following his service as mayor, Mr. Purcell was named a Harvard University Institute of Politics Fellow in 2007. He then served as Founding and Interim Dean of the College of Public Service and Urban Affairs at Tennessee State University before returning to the Harvard Institute of Politics as Director (2008 – 2010), and a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. In December 2009, Mr. Purcell was appointed by Harvard University President Drew Faust as co-chair of the Work Team for Allston and served as Special Advisor on Allston. In these roles, he recommended strategies for achieving a cohesive academic and learning campus environment situated in the Allston neighborhood of Boston adjacent to Cambridge. A decade earlier he was founder and director of the Child and Family Policy Center at Vanderbilt University (1996-99), a nationally-recognized center building a bridge between academic research, politics, and best practices to benefit children and their families. He recently served as a Visiting Professor at Meharry Medical College (Summer 2014).  He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at Vanderbilt University (appointed 2012).

Mr. Purcell was elected to five terms in the Tennessee House of Representatives (1986-96), serving as Majority Leader (1990-96). During his decade in the General Assembly he sponsored and passed legislation undertaking major reforms in Tennessee’s schools, courtrooms, industrial plants and boardrooms, criminal and juvenile justice, hospitals, and voting booths. He served as Chair of the House Rules Committee, Committee on Open Records, and the Select Joint Committee on Children and Youth, and as a member of the Judiciary, General Welfare, Finance Ways and Means, and Ethics Committees. During his service Tennessee was twice ranked the best managed state in America.

Having represented clients in all of the trial courts of Nashville as well as the federal and state appellate courts, Mr. Purcell has been an active participant in the work of the bar. He served as a member of the Commission on the Future of the Tennessee Judicial System, the Tennessee IOLTA Grant Review Committee, and the Board of the Nashville Bar Association, and is a Fellow of both the Tennessee and Nashville Bar Foundations. He has been honored by the Nashville Bar Association with the John C. Tune award for outstanding contributions to his community and faithful service as a member of the bar (2006).

He earned his bachelor’s degree at Hamilton College and his law degree at Vanderbilt University School of Law, where he was honored as the 2004 Distinguished Alumnus.

Bill Purcell


Bar Admissions
Tennessee (1979)
United States Supreme Court (1988)
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (1985)

Board Membership and Program Development
Saint Bonaventure University, Board of Trustees, September 2011-present
Center for Non-Profit Management, Board of Directors, 2017-present
MDC, Durham, North Carolina, Board of Directors, 2017-present

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Washington, DC
Roundtable on Obesity Solutions, Chair, 2013-2019
Standing Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention, Member, 2012-2013
Committee on an Evidence Framework for Obesity Prevention Decision Making, Member, 2008-2009
Consensus Report Issued 2010
Committee on Accelerating Progress on Obesity Prevention, Vice-Chair 2010-2012,
Partnership 2010, Nashville Chamber of Commerce, Co-Chair 2000-2007
State Legislative Leaders Foundation & Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award Selection Committee, 1996-2010

Former Boards
Nashville Children’s Theatre, Board of Directors, 2012-2019
Tennessee Governor’s Management Fellows Executive Committee, appointed by Governor Bill Haslam, 2013-2018
Forum for Youth Investment, Washington, D.C., Former Board Member, 2011-2017
CFED, Corporation for Enterprise Development, Washington, D.C., Former Board Member, 2011-2014
Oasis Center, Board of Directors, 2011-2017
Tennessee Historical Society
Tennessee State Museum Foundation
NAACP Life Member
Listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Law
Eagle Scout

Harvard Kennedy School
Director, Institute of Politics, 2008-2010
Lecturer, 2009-2010
Executive Session on New Paradigms for Child Protective Services (1993 – 1997) See Report: “Child Protection: Building Community Partnerships.” Farrow, Frank, (KSG, 1997).
Executive Session on Faith-based and Community Approaches to Urban Revitalization (convened 2002). See Case Study: “Mayor Purcell and the Faith Community Confront Nashville’s Housing Needs.” X. Briggs, B. Coffin & B. Banks. (KSG, 2003).

U.S. Conference of Mayors
Trustee, 2002 – 2007 Co-Chair
Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness, 2002 – 2004.
Reports available online at

National League of Cities
Council on Youth, Education and Families, member, 2001 – 2007; Chair, 2003 – 2004
Selected Reports: “Engaging Cities, How Municipal Leaders Can Mobilize Communities to Improve Public Schools.” Annenberg Institute for School Reform (2006); “A City Platform for Strengthening Families and Improving Outcomes for Children and Youth.” (2005); “Municipal Leadership for America’s Children Youth and Families: Five Year Report” (2005).

Policymakers Program
The Danforth Foundation in partnership with Education Commission of the States, National Council of State Legislators and National Governors Association
Chair, Advisory Board, 1993 – 2002
Reports: Overview and Five and Ten Year Reports available online at

National Conference of State Legislatures
Assembly on State Issues, Chair, 1995
Human Services Committee, Chair, 1993

Council of State Governments
Toll Fellow, 1988

Vanderbilt Legal Aid Society
Executive Director, 1978-1979

National Superintendent’s Roundtable, Robert Koff Award (2019)
Americans for the Arts, Public Leadership in the Arts Award (2006)
Public Official of the Year, Governing Magazine (2006)
Civil War Preservation Trust, State Leadership Award (2004)
Country Music Association, The Connie B. Gay Founding Presidents Award (2001)
International District Energy Association, Leadership Award (2006)

Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, Welcoming Tennessee Award (2008)
Vanderbilt Institute of Public Policy Studies, The Bridge Award (1991)
Legislator of the Year:
Tennessee Counseling Association (1996)
Tennessee Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics, Tennessee Pediatric Society (1995)
Tennessee Conservation League (1991)
Tennessee District Attorneys Association (1989)
Tennessee Education Association Friend of Education Award (2006)
Tennessee Hospital Association, Community Service Award (1994)

Nashville Alliance for Public Education, Distinguished Service Award (2008)
Metropolitan Nashville Education Association, Friend of Education Award for Outstanding Support of Public Education (1996)
Nashville Downtown Partnership, Vision Award (2007)
Mental Health Association of Middle Tennessee, Jack C. Massey Leadership Award (2007)
Greater Nashville Association of Realtors, Honorary Realtor of the Year (2007)
Community Nashville, Human Relations Award, 2006
Public Relations Society of America Nashville, Apollo Award (2003)
John C. Tune Public Service Award, Nashville Bar Association (2006)