COMMON CORE TOWN HALL MEETINGCLEVELAND CHURCH VANDALIZEDJEEP RECALLBATHROOM SPY CAM
WTVC NewsChannel 9 :: News - Top Stories - John Seigenthaler, Prominent Tennessee Journalist, Dies
Updated:
Friday, July 11 2014, 03:14 PM EDT
John Seigenthaler, Prominent Tennessee Journalist, Dies
By Kristin Hall, Associated Press

John Seigenthaler, the journalist who edited The Tennessean newspaper, helped shape USA Today and worked for civil rights during the Kennedy administration, died Friday at his Nashville home at age 86, his son said.

In his wide-ranging career, Seigenthaler also served on Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign and founded the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

A statement from his son, broadcast journalist John Seigenthaler Jr., said his father died "peacefully at home," where he was recovering after a recent medical treatment.

"We celebrate his life — his devotion to social justice, his advocacy of human rights, and his enduring loyalty to friends and family," the statement said.

Seigenthaler began his journalism career in 1949 as a cub reporter for The Nashville Tennessean. He worked as a reporter and assistant city editor until 1960, when he took a job as administrative assistant to Robert Kennedy, who became attorney general in 1961 during the presidency of his brother.

While working for Kennedy, Seigenthaler served as chief negotiator with the governor of Alabama during the 1961 Freedom Rides organized by civil rights activists seeking to integrate interstate buses. During that crisis, he was attacked and knocked unconscious by a mob of Klansmen in Montgomery, Alabama, as he tried to aid a young protester who was being pursued by the rioters.

"I never saw anything in my life. Never will ever again to compare with the violence on that parking lot at that Greyhound station," Seigenthaler told The Associated Press in an interview in January.

"You don't see human beings acting like that," he added. "There were times when I'd go to a football game or a basketball game and the cheering got to me. It's not something you can live through and just put behind you, as if it didn't happen. It's tough. How can you take your children out to a race riot, and expect them to grow up as decent human beings?"

At a 2007 gathering, he joined others in taking a bus to retrace a Freedom Ride from Montgomery to Birmingham, Alabama.

"I'm going on this trip largely because I'm one of history's accidents. It was their vision and their courage that made the difference," said Seigenthaler. He called himself only "a footnote to the history of the Freedom Riders."

In 1962, Seigenthaler returned to The Tennessean as editor, but took a leave of absence in 1968 to help Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign.

The New York Times said he is "one of a handful of advisers in whom the senator has absolute confidence." After Kennedy was assassinated that June, Seigenthaler was a pallbearer at his funeral.

Back at The Tennessean, he added the title of publisher to his resume in 1972. And in 1989, he became chairman, publisher and chief executive officer.

Also in the 1980s, he became the first editorial director as the Gannett Co. launched USA Today. He held the post for almost a decade. Gannett also owns The Tennessean.

After he retired from The Tennessean in 1991, Seigenthaler founded the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt. The mission of the center — an independent affiliate of the Arlington, Virginia-based Freedom Forum — is to create national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment issues.

 In July 2002, Vanderbilt named the First Amendment Center's building The John Seigenthaler Center. And in August 2001, the university created a scholarship for minority students in Seigenthaler's name after he gave Vanderbilt $2 million.

Seigenthaler said then that the scholarship would stand as a testimony that the cost of education is a worthy endeavor.

"It is expensive, education," he said. "But we've tried ignorance so many ways, and it doesn't work."

A Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at Middle Tennessee State University was endowed for $3 million in Seigenthaler's name in 1986. MTSU is located in Murfreesboro, about 30 miles southeast of Nashville.

Among his books was "A Search for Justice," a 1971 volume he co-wrote about the trials of people charged in the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. He also wrote a book about James K. Polk, the nation's 11th president, for a series titled The American Presidents.

Seigenthaler worked in a variety of roles following his retirement. He served on the advisory boards of schools of journalism and communications at American University, the University of Tennessee and the University of Maryland.

He was among the first to raise questions about the accuracy of Wikipedia, writing an opinion piece about how he was defamed by a hoax biography posted on the site. The controversy led Wikipedia to change its procedures for posting content.

Seigenthaler was a member of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform organized in 2001. He also was a member of the Constitution Project Initiative on Liberty and Security, created after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In April 2014, the city of Nashville and a rights group honored Seigenthaler for his lifelong commitment to victims' causes. The city also renamed a downtown pedestrian bridge in honor of Seigenthaler, who prevented a suicidal man from jumping off the bridge 60 years ago when he was a Tennessean reporter.

"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," said the city's mayor, Karl Dean.

He is survived by his wife, the former Dolores Watson, a professional singer, and their son, John Jr. The younger Seigenthaler is a former weekend anchor for NBC News in New York and joined Al Jazeera America in 2013.

A funeral is planned for Monday in Nashville.
John Seigenthaler, Prominent Tennessee Journalist, Dies

Advertise with us!

Related Stories

  • TN/GA Regional News
  • National News
  • International News

NewsChannel9 Top Stories

Georgia Primary Election Runoff Results

Chattanooga's Noise Ordinance: Turn The Volume Up?

Spy Camera Found in Downtown Chattanooga Bathroom

Churches Vandalized, What Tipped Elders Off

Inspector Addresses Parking Garage Safety Concerns

The Political Landscape of Common Core

EPB Releases Findings of Street Light Audit

Chrysler Issues Jeep Recall

Spy Camera Found in Chattanooga Business Bathroom

Neighbors Throw Rocks on Man's Window to Tell Him Apartment is on Fire

Cleveland Gas Station Robbed

Car Plows into Cleveland Business

Child Removed from Home with Meth Lab

Local Group Aims to Help Families with Kids Heading to School

Generous Donation Helps Local Farmers Market

Report: Tennessee Children's Well-Being Improving

Citing Security Concerns, U.S. Airline Companies Scrap All Israel Flights

Catoosa Police Publish Home Invasion Suspect Sketch

Federal Appeals Court Deals Health Care Law Major Blow

GA Voters Head to the Polls in Primary Runoff

Mysterious White Flags Replace American Flags on Brooklyn Bridge

Our Tuesday Facebook Friend of the Day

Prince George Turns 1!

GMC Mid-Morning Update for Tuesday

Third Congressional District Candidates Speak At UTC Forum

Man Sought for Stealing from Children's Miracle Network

Calvin Digs Deeper Into Common Core

Bradley Co. Detectives Need Help Finding Church Thieves

Christan Taylor - A Beacon of Friendship

Busy Intersection Under Investigation After Accident

UPDATE: Biker Community Reacts to Fatal Motorcycle Crash

Chattanooga Coca-Cola Community Expands

Obama Gives Protection to Gay, Transgender Workers

Is Russia Concealing Evidence in Ukraine Plane Shootdown?

Pedestrian Struck and Killed in Chattanooga

Sideroads: Mayfield Farm

Man Adopts a Fine Feathered Friend

Our Monday Facebook Friend of the Day

Middle East Crisis

GMC Mid-Morning Update for Monday

Conserving Water in Chattanooga

Mothers Demanding Stop To Gang-Related Violence

Legendary Actor James Garner Dies

McMinn Sheriff Warns of Scam

Disabled Sports Despite Rain

Chattanooga Woman Using Birthday To Promote Kindness

Restaurants Take Measures To Avoid Over-Serving Customers

Cleveland Crash Survivor Shares His Story

Lawyer Weighs in on Police Order to Destroy Video

McMinn County Murder Suspects in Court

House Fire Training Ends For New Recruits

Obama Protestors Hang Signs at Hamilton Place Overpass

LaFayette Culinary Center Makes Quick Work of Lunch

David's Picks for the Weekend

Kickball Craze Hits Chattanooga

TN Family Invents "Handlebar Helmet"

What We Know, And Don't Know, One Day after Crash of Malaysian Plane

Fire Department Trainees Gather for Customary 'Fiery Photo'

Early Voting Underway in Tennessee, Ending in Georgia

President's Special Address on Plane Shoot-down and Gaza Conflict

FedEx Intends to Fight Drug Shipment Allegations

Campaign Finance Complaint Filed Against Weston Wamp

'Shocking' Jail Problems in Grundy County

Growing Wildfire Empties Washington Town

M17 Shootdown - Calling for an International Investigation

Our Friday Facebook Friend of the Day

Amazing Precision - They Did Try This at Home

GMC Mid-Morning Update for Friday

Snakes Galore - No Rule Against 200 Serpents in House

Rookie Firefighters Staring Down the Beast

Memorial Services Honor The Life Of Cleveland Judge Bill Moss

Settlement Reached for Past Due Liquor Taxes in Hamilton County

Israel & Gaza "Cheat Sheet:" How the Conflict Got to This Point

3 Arrested in McMinn County Murder

2 Women from Athens, Temporarily 'Lost at Sea'

U.S. Officials Believe Malaysian Flight Was Shot Down

Former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall's Take on Malaysian Plane Crash in Ukraine

Israel Launches Ground Offensive into Gaza Strip

Neighbors React to Catoosa County Home Invasion

Chattanooga Fire Department Cadets to Burn Down House Friday

Camp Teaches 7-Year-Olds To Code

VW Plans Welcome Center in Downtown Chattanooga

Dog Hailed as Hero for Alerting Deaf Boy to Fire

2nd Person Dies Following Tuesday's Wreck on Hwy 153

Bank Robbers, Hostage Killed in Hail of Gunfire, Caught on Tape

Couple Calls 911 on Crazed Cat

Georgia’s Unemployment Rate Rises, Still Down from 2013

GMC Mid-Morning Update for Thursday

Our Thursday Facebook Friend of the Day

Hollywood Minute: Beatles Movie, Garth's Comeback and Jillian Bails

International Deaf Tennis in Scenic City

Truck Fire Shuts Down I-75N

Vandals Strike Collegedale Academy

Animal Shelter Accidentally Kills Dalton Dog

Man Ducks Down in Seat to Survive Crash

OOPS! Lizard Takes Live Bathroom Break on This N That

Victim of Machete Attack over Dog Poop Speaks Out

Former Grundy Sheriff's Captain Indicted

Two Men Convicted of Travelling to Murray County to Have Sex with a Minor

GA Hires 100 New Child Protective Workers

Advertise with us!

Newsmax Headlines

Sponsored content

Business News

Asia stocks bolstered by US earnings, home sales

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Asian stock markets posted moderate gains today, bolstered by solid U.S. earnings and home sales.

Consumer Info

   WEST PALM BEACH, FL -- (Marketwired) -- 03/21/14 --
 Companies that pride themselves on being eco-friendly may have conflicted
 ideas between marketing with ad specialties and maintaining their green
 reputation. ...

Entertainment News

CLEANING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Call it a case of fighting water pollution with pop culture.

Get This

MARIJUANA AT A MUSEUM

SEATTLE (AP) -- It's one joint that won't go up in smoke.

Science/Tech News

IN THE NEWS: STUB-HUB GETS HIT BY HACKERS

NEW YORK (AP) -- StubHub is the latest online seller to be hit by a security breach.


 

Tonight on WTVC NewsChannel 9

7:00 Wheel of Fortune

7:30 Jeopardy

8:00 The Middle

8:30 The Goldbergs 

9:00 Modern Family

9:30 The Middle 

10:00 Motive

11:00 NewsChannel 9

11:35 Jimmy Kimmel Live

Complete Schedule »


Road Trippin
No Text Zone
Pay It Forward
Storm Track 9 Radar
Storm Track 9 Weather App