James C. Free   Chairman

Jim Free's exposure to the art of law-making began in Nashville, Tennessee, where he served as the Administrative Assistant to Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Ned McWherter, and then as Chief Clerk of the House. He is a former president of the American Society of House Chief Clerks and Senate Secretaries and was an officer in the National Conference of State Legislatures.


In 1977, Free brought his legislative experience to Washington to serve in the Carter White House as Special Assistant to the President for Congressional Affairs. As an advocate for the President's programs before Congress, he worked on transportation, trade, and environmental issues – including passage of the Clean Air Act, the Alaska Lands Act and national energy legislation.


Before co-founding The Smith-Free Group in 1995, Free had been Vice Chairman of Walker-Free Associates, a consulting firm he joined in 1981. At both firms, spanning three decades, he has been involved in representing major global companies in such areas as energy, entertainment, communications, healthcare, financial services, and transportation, and has developed considerable expertise in those areas.  


Jim Free has given long-term support to The Carter Center's programs focused on peace and health. In 1999, he served as a member of the Carter Center's Election Observation Team, traveling with President Carter to monitor elections in Mozambique. The Carter Center has recognized Free and his wife, Ann, by naming a room at the Center in their honor.


Jim Free is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, MTSU. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and minor in Economics (1969), and a Master’s in Public Administration (1972). After graduation, he served as Assistant Director of Admissions at Middle Tennessee State University and later as Assistant to University of Tennessee’s Vice President. 


He has lectured and led discussions at the University of Georgia, Lipscomb University, MTSU, The Brookings Institution, the Carter Center, and before a range of business groups and Boards of Directors around the country.


His extensive Washington experience has been recognized with service on several boards of business, professional, and charitable institutions, including the Country Music Association, the Washington Center for Interns, the Branding Committee of the New York Stock Exchange, the Woodrow Wilson House, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  


Jim and Ann Free are active community members and generous supporters of the arts and humanities and other charitable organizations, including The Kennedy Center, The Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Horton’s Kids, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Woodrow Wilson Center, City Year Washington DC, Nashville Public Library Foundation, Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, among others. The Free’s continue their involvement and support for Jim’s alma mater, by establishing the Jim and Ann Free Endowed Scholarship in Music Business at MTSU. 


A native of Columbia, Tennessee, Jim Free and his wife, Ann Todd Free, reside in the District of Columbia.