Duff: We have lost ‘a champion for freedom’

Friday, July 11, 2014

By James C. Duff

We are deeply saddened to inform you that John Seigenthaler, our dear colleague and founder of our First Amendment Center, passed away today, resting peacefully at home with his family by his side.

John Seigenthaler was a gift to our country.  His pledge of allegiance to the Republic was not routine recitation nor passive expression of sentiment.  For John, it was a call to action.  He devoted his life to making certain that liberty and justice for all applied to all.  He thereby breathed life into our Constitution.

From his early years as Bobby Kennedy’s assistant, to risking his life in the Freedom Rides, to his days as editor, publisher and chairman of The Tennessean, to founding the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt and the Newseum Institute, he lived every day extolling the virtues of freedom and giving voice to those struggling to attain their fair share of it and guarding against those who would encroach upon it.

John was also devoted to his lovely wife Dolores, son John Michael, daughter-in-law Kerry, and grandson Jack.  They were blessed with his love.  Beyond his immediate family, and among all others for whom he toiled, we at the Newseum and Freedom Forum may have been the most fortunate.  We were privileged to enjoy on a daily basis for 23 years the benefits of his leadership, his intellect, his humor, his warm laugh, his friendship and his love.  John worked tirelessly until his passing.  He accomplished more in a day than colleagues one fourth his age. He ran through the finish line, not to the finish line.  His passing is an enormous loss to his many, many friends and country.

John Seigenthaler was a champion for freedom.

We will miss him more than words can describe.

James C. Duff is chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum, Newseum and Newseum Institute.