John Seigenthaler, 1927-2014
We remember how long and loyally John Seigenthaler supported our Library. The Library champions the unhampered sharing of information and ideas, as Mr. Seigenthaler did. That’s what we had in common with this man, who loved a great story.
Mr. Seigenthaler helped us gather oral histories from people who had marched, sung and struggled for desegregation for our Civil Rights collection. He mentored other writers through the NPL Writer’s Circle, which he founded, inspiring people with a “serious intent to write” to find voiceless groups and bring their untold stories out of the dark.
Time and time again, hundreds of people gathered here to hear Mr. Seigenthaler speak or interview an author. He could pull us into the heaviness of the moments he had lived. And then, just as we could bear no more, he would toss in a joke – timed so right that we were relieved and surprised at our own laughter.
Having Mr. Seigenthaler in our library was like having an old friend visit. We loved his half smile and that tie he always wore, the one with children’s drawings all over it.
We miss Mr. Seigenthaler already, and we send our compassion to his family.
**UPDATE: This event is canceled.**
Nashville Public Library presents a special edition of Nashville Writers Circle. On July 13, James Squires will interview Writers Circle host John Seigenthaler about his illustrious career in journalism. The recording of this event will be part of the John Seigenthaler Oral History Collection.
The John Seigenthaler Oral History Collection will contain a series of interviews conducted by Jim Squires with John Seigenthaler about his life. Interviews will cover general life experiences and include discussions of growing up in Nashville, working as a reporter, editor, publisher and CEO at the Tennessean, covering the Nashville Sit-Ins and the Freedom Rides, serving under Robert Kennedy in the Attorney General’s Office, founding the First Amendment Center, and other experiences.
More information about Seigenthaler’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement can be found in an oral history he recorded as part of the Civil Rights Oral History Collection.
John Seigenthaler founded the First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values.
A former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Seigenthaler served for 43 years as an award-winning journalist for The Tennessean. In 1982, Seigenthaler became founding editorial director of USA TODAY and served in that position for a decade, retiring from both the Nashville and national newspapers in 1991.
Seigenthaler left journalism briefly in the early 1960s to serve in the U.S. Justice Department as administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. His work in the field of civil rights led to his service as chief negotiator with the governor of Alabama during the Freedom Rides.
In 2002, the trustees of Vanderbilt University created the John Seigenthaler Center, naming the building that houses the offices of the Freedom Forum, the First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute. A chair in First Amendment Studies was endowed for $1.5 million in Seigenthaler’s name at Middle Tennessee State University.
James D. Squires was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1943. He holds a B.A. degree in English and Political Science from Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. From July 1981 until December 1989, he was editor and executive vice-president of the Chicago Tribune, which under his leadership won seven Pulitzer Prizes.
As a national political correspondent for the Tribune and earlier for The Tennessean, he covered 12 national political conventions, three presidential elections and the White House under three different administrations in Washington, including Watergate and the impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon. In 1992, Squires was press spokesman and media advisor to Ross Perot in his independent campaign for President. He has appeared frequently as a political analyst on CNN and PBS, and as a guest on NBC’s Meet the Press and Nightline on ABC.
Nashville Public Library presents Nashville Writers Circle, hosted by John Siegenthaler and Will Akers. This event is presented in partnership with the Nashville Public Library Foundation. Guest authors are Robert Massie and Suzanne Kingsbury.
Books to be discussed:
Robert K. Massie
Robert Massie was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated from Yale University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he read Modern History. Mr. Massie’s Pulitzer Prize-winning exploration of the Russian Romanov dynasty includes Nicholas and Alexandra, Peter the Great: His Life and World, The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, and Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. Massie has twice been a professor at Princeton University, has served as the Mellon Professor of Humanities at Tulane University, and was a long-serving trustee of Vassar College. Mr. Massie lives in Irvington, NY with his wife Deborah Karl and three children.
Suzanne Kingsbury was born in Baltimore, Maryland, raised in New England and came south to begin her literary career. Her critically-acclaimed first novel The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me is set in the Mississippi Hill country one steamy summer after the death of a black horse trader. It has been translated widely abroad and appeared on independent booksellers’ bestseller lists across the country. She also wrote The Gospel According to Gracey, which was optioned for film by Anne Hathaway. Kingsbury has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship, was the recipient of the Oxford Town short fiction award and has been in residence at Yaddo, Ledig, a Room of Her Own, and as a writer-in-residence at universities and colleges nationwide.
Nashville Public Library presents Nashville Writers Circle, hosted by John Siegenthaler and Will Akers. This month’s Circle is presented in partnership with Humanities Tennessee and the Southern Festival of Books. Guest authors are Rick Bragg and Roy Blount, Jr.
Books to be discussed:
Rick Bragg is the author of three critically acclaimed and best-selling books, All Over but the Shoutin’, Ava’s Man, and The Prince of Frogtown. A native Alabamian, Bragg says he learned to tell stories by listening to the masters, the people of the foothills of the Appalachians. Bragg’s books have become anthems in his native South, honoring the poor and working people, and have struck a chord with readers everywhere. As a national correspondent for The New York Times, Bragg won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, for which the committee cited his elegantly written stories about contemporary America. Currently, Bragg is a Professor of Writing in the Journalism Department at the University of Alabama.
Roy Blount, Jr.
Roy Blount Jr. is the author of twenty-three books, about everything from the first woman president of the United States to what barnyard animals are thinking. A contributing writer of Oxford American, he writes a regular column for Garden and Gun, and has done so in the past for Esquire, The New York Times, and The Atlanta Journal, among others. This work has taken him to China, Uganda, Iceland and all but two states. Via various media he has reported on the Civil Rights Movement, the Ku Klux Klan, Saturday Night Live in its prime, Elvis’s funeral, an Olympics and several World Series and Super Bowls, and the 1992 Presidential election. He has jumped out of a plane, graduated (conditionally) from race-car driving school, scuba-dived with sharks, sung on stage (as a member of the authors’ rock band Rock Bottom Remainders) with Bruce Springsteen and Stephen King, caught catfish with his bare hands in Illinois; and ridden a camel in Kenya, a dolphin in the Florida Keys, and an elephant in L.A. He comes from Decatur, Georgia and lives in western Massachusetts.
August 25, 2013 – Becca Stevens and E. Thomas Wood visited Nasvhille Writers Circle. Watch or listen to the discussion, hosted by Will Akers and John Siegenthaler.
Nashville Public Library presents Nashville Writers Circle, hosted by John Seigenthaler and Will Akers. This month’s guest authors are Becca Stevens and E. Thomas Wood.
Books to be discussed:
Snake Oil, by Becca Stevens
An assortment of E. Thomas Wood’s local history articles (PDF)
Becca Stevens is an Episcopal priest and the founder of Nashville’s Magdalene, a residential community that provides housing, medical attention, education and employment opportunities to marginalized women.
She will discuss her new book Snake Oil, which details her experiences as founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms, two nonprofits that help give purpose and healing to women who have endured sex trafficking, prostitution and sexual abuse.
E. Thomas Wood
E. Thomas Wood is a writer living in Nashville, his hometown. His books include Nashville: An American Self-Portrait (co-edited with John Egerton) and Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust. Tom’s investigative, business and historical journalism has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and numerous other newspapers and magazines. He is presently at work on a biography of Frank Maxwell Andrews, the Nashville native and American general for whom Andrews Air Force Base is named. Tom is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and holds an M.Phil. degree in European Studies from the University of Cambridge.
April 7, 2013 - Jay McInerney and Gary Fisketjon visited Nashville Writers Circle. Listen to the discussion, moderated by John Seigenthaler and William M. Akers.