Hill McAlister was born on July 15, 1875 in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the son of William King and Laura Brown (Dortch) McAlister. His family was related to at least two former governors of Tennessee (Willie Blount and Aaron V. Brown) and the former (and only) governor of the predecessor Southwest Territory, William Blount. He attended Nashville public schools and pursued college education at Vanderbilt University.
After graduating from Vanderbilt University’s law school, Governor McAlister was admitted to the bar and served for a time as Nashville city attorney. On November 27, 1901, he married Louise Jackson who was the daughter of Judge Howell E. and Mary Elizabeth (Harding) Jackson. The couple eventually had two children. Their names were Louise and Laura.
In 1911, Governor McAlister was elected as a State Senator representing Davidson County. He served in the 57th and 58th General Assemblies from 1911 to 1915. After serving in the State Senate, he was elected by the General Assembly to serve as the State Treasurer of Tennessee in 1919. Governor McAlister served as State Treasurer from 1919 to 1927 and then was reelected in 1931 and served until 1933.
Additionally, he pursued the governorship of Tennessee. After failing twice to achieve the Democratic nomination for governor, he did receive the nomination in 1932 during his final term as State Treasurer. Governor McAlister’s election as governor occurred at the depths of the Great Depression on the same day that Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States. Governor McAlister favored most of Roosevelt’s New Deal measures such as the development of the Tennessee Valley Authority and labor reforms like the Unemployment Compensation Law. During Governor McAlister’s administration, construction of Norris Dam by the newly created Tennessee Valley Authority was begun in Anderson County. In addition, Congress established the Great Smoky Mountains National Park following the acquisition of 500,000 acres in Tennessee and North Carolina.
After serving two consecutive terms, Governor McAlister did not seek a third term in 1936. In 1940, Governor McAlister was appointed as U.S. Referee in Bankruptcy. He served in that position from 1940 until his death on October 30, 1959. Governor Hill McAlister was a member of the Nashville Civitan Club; he is buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.
Reference: Biographical Directory of the Tennessee General Assembly, Vol. III, 1901-1931(Nashville: The Tennessee Historical Commission, 1988); “Hill McAlister,” in Tennessee Encyclopedia of History & Culture, Online Edition www.tennesseeencyclopedia.net; Tennessee State Library & Archives, Photographs DB 2617, 2620, 1311; “Hill McAlister,” Find A Grave. Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi.