Honoring John Seigenthaler
“In America the President reigns for four years, and Journalism governs forever and ever,” wrote Oscar Wilde. Few journalists have served as nobler leaders in their profession—and in the nation, more broadly—than John Seigenthaler, who died Friday. In his vast and varied career, Seigenthaler was a close advisor to John F. Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, and a reporter, editor and publisher at The Tennessean. A tenacious advocate for racial equality, he led the coverage of the civil rights movement and fought on its front lines. Until his death he also directed the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt, where he hosted panels with luminaries on topics ranging from foreign policy to the future of storytelling.
At one recent such panel, which Seigenthaler hosted in collaboration with the English department, an audience member lauded his presence as a “living legend”; he rejoined, “Only in my own head.” He was wrong on two counts: his career is and will be celebrated far and wide (thousands of guests thronged to his funeral), and the humble writer and activist never let his influence go to his head.
~Amanda Little, Writer in Residence