John Seigenthaler has a legacy (including his unwavering support for the arts) that stretches through Nashville and well beyond. That legacy includes his work as Special Assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy with the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s; his career as a reporter, then Editor and Publisher and later Chairman Emeritus of The Tennessean as well as founding Editorial Director for USA Today; and his commitment to the First Amendment Center and Freedom Forum of the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University.
Sixty years ago, he pulled a suicidal man to safety on the Shelby Street Bridge while covering the incident; on Tuesday that bridge, now a pedestrian walkway crossing the Cumberland River, was renamed in his honor. Gov. Bill Haslam, Mayor Karl Dean, members of Seigenthaler’s family and a host of other dignitaries were there for the ceremony. After that You Have the Power, which was founded in 1993 by former Tennessee First Lady Andrea Conte, honored Seigenthaler at the Country Music Association Theater of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum with their 2014 Powerhouse Award for his “remarkable impact and concern for crime victims everywhere. He is indeed a powerhouse for justice and human dignity,” as Conte had noted when the award was announced.
The program at the award presentation touched on his remarkable life and work; that program was written by Seigenthaler’s niece, Katie Seigenthaler of Seigenthaler Public Relations, and directed by Nashville Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Denice Hicks. The evening also included performances by acclaimed Americana artist Jonell Mosser, popular singer/songwriter Bill Lloyd, John Deadrick on keyboards and Grammy Award entertainer and YHTP Board member Linda Davis.