John Seigenthaler, NF ’59, a legendary Tennessee journalist and staunch advocate for racial equality and the First Amendment, died July 11 at his home in Nashville. He was 86.
Seigenthaler started his journalism career as a cub reporter at The (Nashville) Tennessean in 1949. He investigated corruption in the Teamsters union and reported on the Ku Klux Klan’s illegal activities.
He worked for civil rights during President John F. Kennedy’s administration, serving as the chief negotiator with the governor of Alabama during the 1961 Freedom Rides.
The following year he was named editor of The Tennessean at the age of 34. In 1982 he became the first editorial page editor of USA Today, continuing in both jobs until he retired as publisher, chairman and CEO of The Tennessean and from USA Today in 1991. That was the year he founded the First Amendment Center, an educational organization.
In 2005, after a false accusation about him was posted on Wikipedia, Seigenthaler fought to hold the organization accountable for what it publishes. Wikipedia altered its practices to address some of the issues he raised.
Seigenthaler on Ethics, in Nieman Reports Summer 1994