A native of Kingsport, Tennessee, Bartholomew was an all-state running back in high school who played college football at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduating from West Point in 1966, Bartholomew served in Europe, Panama, and then with the 3 / 4 Armored Cavalry Squadron in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He earned his law degree Order of the Coif from Vanderbilt in 1973 and in 1977 became a founding partner in Stokes Bartholomew, which later became Stokes Bartholomew Evans & Petree. He also taught corporate law as a member of Vanderbilt’s adjunct law faculty from 1974 to 1984.
Bartholomew’s distinguished legal career included serving on the board of directors of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), to which he was appointed in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. He served on the board of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and was appointed as a Federal Land Commissioner by the U.S. District Court. Over the course of his career, he also served on the boards of Regions Financial Corporation, SunTrust Bank, Corrections Corp. of America and Union Planters Bank.
Active in state economic development, Bartholomew served as director-general of the first Tennessee trade mission to France and on the board of the Tennessee European Economic Alliance. He was a trustee of the Tennessee Technology Foundation, served as a member of the Tennessee Economic Education Council and was chairman of the Nashville Business Incubation Center. He also served as a board member and general counsel to Tennessee Tomorrow, Inc.
In 2009, Bartholomew was honored for his lifelong support for sports programs of all types in Nashville and Tennessee by induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. He helped organize the Nashville Rugby Club soon after founding Stokes Bartholomew, and was a founding member and director of the Nashville Sports Council and the Music City Bowl. He served on the boards of the Middle Tennessee Football Foundation, the Tennessee Police Athletic League, the YMCA and the Tennessee NFL Committee. His 12 years of service on the board of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame included a term as president. He also served as chairman of the 1996 Tennessee U.S. Olympic Committee and was a founder of the Golf Club of Tennessee.
Among many accomplishments on behalf of the city of Nashville, Bartholomew was part of the team who successfully negotiated with airlines to create a hub airport in the city. He was also instrumental in bringing the Titans of the National Football League to Tennessee, chairing the committee that raised over $100 million in suite sales to attract the Houston Oilers to a new home in Nashville.
He received the Governor’s Outstanding Tennessean Award in 1984 for his service as chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program.
In addition to teaching corporate law for a decade, Bartholomew’s service to Vanderbilt Law School included chairing the Dean’s Council and serving on the Alumni Board.
In a 2004 interview with the Nashville Business Journal, Bartholomew was asked what he thought the most common misconception of the legal profession was. “Honest, ethical attorneys are the norm, not an oxymoron,” he replied.
“Sam was truly a visionary. He blazed a trail in the way law firms serve their clients and build their business. He touched countless lives and was a trusted counselor to political leaders and captains of industry,” said Gif Thornton’90 (BS’84), managing partner of Adams and Reese, in a statement on the firm’s site. Adams and Reese merged with Stokes Bartholomew in 2005 after merger negotiations led by Bartholomew.
Bartholomew is survived by his wife, Vicki Hurd Bartholomew, and their four children, Bo, Anne, Will and Ben.
Sam’s classmates in the Class of 1973 have established a scholarship in Sam’s honor to recognize his successful career, his positive impact on his community and classmates, and his commitment to Vanderbilt. The Sam Bartholomew Leadership Award will provide financial support for deserving law students who have a demonstrated record of leadership, with a preference for students who have served in the U.S. military or in other uniformed services, such emergency first responders. For more information, contact Clay.Cline@Vanderbilt.edu.