Dwight E. Tarwater received his undergraduate degree in 1977 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 in 1980. He served as law clerk to the Honorable Houston M. Goddard of the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Dwight was one of the founding partners of the firm in 1987.
In 2014, Dwight was asked to serve as General Counsel to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. He served in that role through Haslam’s final term. In February 2019, he rejoined the firm he founded in 1987.
As Counsel to the Governor, Dwight provided advice on legal, financial, political, and governmental issues, and served as a member of the Governor’s Cabinet. His experience included oversight of a team that reviewed and commented on pending legislation and other policies, and he coordinated the Governor’s judicial appointment process. He served as Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer for the executive branch, and as the National Criminal Justice Policy Advisor to the National Governors Association for Tennessee. As Chair of the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet, Dwight steered implementation of numerous reforms in criminal justice, juvenile justice, law enforcement, and drug treatment.
As a litigation attorney, Dwight has extensive and wide-ranging trial and appellate experience in Tennessee and several other states representing Fortune 500 companies and other businesses in mass tort, product liability, pharmaceutical, and commercial cases. On appeal, he has represented clients before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, the Tennessee Supreme Court and in the United States Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Sixth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits.
Dwight has been a member of the Knoxville and Tennessee Bar Associations since his licensure in 1980. He has served as a board member and President of the Knoxville Barristers (Young Lawyers Division). With the Knoxville Bar Association, he served on the Board of Governors for nine years including service as the Bar’s Secretary, President-Elect and President. He served as East Tennessee Governor of the Tennessee Bar Association and on the Board of the Tennessee Young Lawyers Conference. He has served many professional associations including the American Bar Association, Tennessee Association for Justice, the Defense Research Institute, the International Association of Defense Counsel, Litigation Counsel of America and the Trial Attorneys of America. He is a fellow in the Knoxville, Tennessee, and American Bar Foundations. He has been an invited guest lecturer at The University of Tennessee College of Law, and he has been asked to speak at various meetings of his professional colleagues.
In 2006, he became a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Dwight and his firm have devoted a great number of hours to the pro bono representation of indigent persons. 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 several times with the Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year Award presented by Legal Aid of East Tennessee. He is a graduate of both Leadership Tennessee and Leadership Knoxville and has served multiple boards throughout the community.
In 2002, Dwight was first listed in the Best Lawyers in America, compiled through an exhaustive peer review survey of thousands of top lawyers. Since that time he has been selected five times as Lawyer of the Year for the Knoxville area by Best Lawyers — first in 2009 in the category Bet the Company Litigation; again in 2013 in the category Personal Injury Litigation-Defendants; in two separate categories in 2014: Bet the Company Litigation and Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions-Defendants; and in 2015 in the category Personal Injury Litigation-Defendants.
Dwight was married to the late Mary Flowers Tarwater for 34 years. They raised three children: Davis, Katherine, and Dwight. Davis, a businessman in Knoxville, is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Oxford and a 2012 Olympic gold medalist in swimming. His wife, Brittany, is a news anchor for the local CBS affiliate. Katherine, a graduate of the University of Georgia, is a former public school teacher. She and her husband, Dr. Brian Freeman, and their sons, Roe and Michael, live in Athens, Georgia. His son, Dwight, is a graduate of Cornell University and the University of California Berkeley, where he played on the varsity basketball teams. He is a health care consultant in Knoxville.