John Seigenthaler, the legendary former editor and publisher of The Tennessean, succumbed this morning after a long battle with cancer. He was 86.
A lifelong Nashvillian, Seigenthaler rose through a star-studded Tennessean newsroom in the 1950s — one that included David Halberstam and Tom Wicker — to become the paper's editor in 1962, following a two-year stint working for Robert F. Kennedy in the Justice Department.
Under his leadership, The Tennessean gained a reputation for tough journalism, challenging the General Assembly's exclusion of reporters from public meetings. The newspaper's lawsuit successfully limited lawmakers' ability to conduct closed-door business.
Seigenthaler wrote unflinchingly from Vietnam in 1965 about the dangers of escalation. He also led the paper as it exposed abuse in the city's mental hospital, investigated Metro Council members for corruption and infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.
Seigenthaler became publisher in 1973. In 1982, he added the responsibilities of editorial director for the newly launched, Gannett-owned USA Today, which had purchased The Tennessean the decade before.
In 1991, he retired from the paper and founded the First Amendment Center, now housed in a