NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – John Seigenthaler, a writer, journalist and prominent defender of the first amendment, passed away Friday at the age of 86.
Seigenthaler was a citizen of Nashville who loved his city, state and played a major role in the history of both.
He joined The Tennessean in 1949, resigning in 1960 to act as Robert F. Kennedy’s administrative assistant.
During his time with the Kennedy administration, he was beaten during a trip to Alabama while trying to protect the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights movement.
He later returned to The Tennessean as an editor in 1962, publisher in 1973, and chairman in 1982 before retiring in 1991 as chairman emeritus.
Seigenthaler was also a founding editorial director of USA Today and founder of the First Amendment Center on the campus of Vanderbilt University, a building later renamed to The John Seigenthaler Center in 2002.
He was a man of words, hosting a public affairs show dissecting authors and their work, with MTSU establishing The John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence for his lifelong commitment to free expression values.
And just last April, at one of his last public events, the Shelby Street Bridge was renamed in his honor.
The bridge is where, as a young reporter for The Tennessean, Seigenthaler talked a man from jumping to his death into the Cumberland River.
Following news of his passing, Mayor Karl Dean released a statement which read, “Today we lost an iconic figure in Nashville’s history — a man who stood for inclusiveness long before it was synonymous with our city’s culture. As a journalist, John did much more than bear witness to political and community affairs; he helped shape Nashville’s story, laying much of the groundwork for us to become the great city we are today.”
He continued, “Personally, he has been an advisor and a friend. Our city will feel his absence. Anne and I extend our deepest condolences to Dolores, John Michael, Kerry and Jack, the apple of John’s eye.”
He is survived by his wife Dolores, son John Michael, daughter-in-law Kerry and grandson Jack.
Visitation will be held Sunday at the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
His funeral will be Monday at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Incarnation on West End Avenue.