Nashville community honors, remembers John Seigenthaler - WSMV Channel 4

Nashville community honors, remembers John Seigenthaler

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Mourners enter the John Seigenthaler Center to pay tribute to John Seigenthaler, who passed away on Friday. Mourners enter the John Seigenthaler Center to pay tribute to John Seigenthaler, who passed away on Friday.
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Friends, colleagues, and public figures gathered to remember Nashville icon John Seigenthaler on Sunday evening.

Thousands filed into the First Amendment Center on Vanderbilt University's campus to say their goodbyes to the city's most influential journalist. The line of mourners trailed outside the building and around the street.

Within the first hour, nearly 500 visitors had shuffled through the building to pay their respects to Seigenthaler family.

"That line is Nashville," said Gene Policinski, the chief executive officer of the Newseum Institute. "It is old and young, black, white. It is what the city is."

Seigenthaler died on Friday at the age of 86. His daughter-in-law, Kerry Brock, remembers their last days together.

"A couple of us are shedding a few tears," Brock said. "He just looked up at us and said, 'Be brave. Be brave.'"

Seigenthaler started his career as a crime reporter at the Tennessean in 1949. He eventually served as chairman emeritus, remaining active at the publication long after he retired. Seigenthaler also helped form USA Today as a founding editorial director.

While Seigenthaler shaped local and national publications, his achievements also went beyond the fine print.

Seigenthaler, an assistant to Robert Kennedy, became a fierce advocate in the civil rights movement. He even suffered injuries while trying to help a Freedom Rider in Alabama. Then in 1991, Seigenthaler established the First Amendment Center in hopes of educating the public about their own freedoms.

"We last talked about two and a half weeks ago, three weeks ago, maybe. We had five projects in the air at that moment all the way into next year," said Policinski, who also worked at USA Today with Seigenthaler.

The somber day prompted visitors to reflect on how people can honor Seigenthaler's legacy.

"I really hope from this that young people would realize what he has done and what they are going to do," said Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville. "We've got to depend on young people now to think about what their lives are going to be like."

Brock said she was moved by the number of people who surrounded her family on Sunday. She described her father-in-law as a man who lived his life with candor - in love and work.

"He was tenacious in pursuing a relationship with my son even though we were 1,000 miles away," Brock said.

Seigenthaler's funeral will be 10 a.m. Monday at the Cathedral of the Incarnation at 2015 West End Ave.

In lieu of flowers, his family is asking for donations to Room in the Inn or the First Amendment Center.

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