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,
Nashville's morning newspaper. At his retirement he was editor, publisher and
CEO. He retains the title chairman emeritus. 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. During that
crisis, while attempting to aid Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Ala., he was
attacked by a mob of Klansmen and hospitalized.
Seigenthaler hosts a weekly book-review program, "A Word On Words." He is a
senior advisory trustee of the Freedom Forum. Since the death of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. he has chaired the Robert F. Kennedy
Book Awards for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and he is chairman emeritus of the annual Profile in Courage Award selection committee of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Seigenthaler served on the 18-member National Commission on Federal Election
Reform organized in 2001 by former Presidents Carter and Ford. He is a member of
the Constitution Project on Liberty and Security, created after the Sept. 11
tragedies in New York and Washington.
In 2002, the trustees of Vanderbilt University created the John Seigenthaler
Center, naming the building at 18th Avenue South and Edgehill Avenue that houses
the offices of the Freedom Forum, the First Amendment Center and the Diversity
Institute. The John Seigenthaler Center encompasses 57,000 square feet and
includes a three-story expansion that was funded by the Freedom Forum and
donated to Vanderbilt.
A chair in First Amendment Studies was endowed for $1.5 million in
Seigenthaler's name at Middle Tennessee State University. Scholarship projects
are endowed at both Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State in Seigenthaler’s
Seigenthaler is the author of a biography, James K. Polk, published by
Times Books and released in January 2004.
The First Amendment Center works nationwide to preserve and protect First
Amendment freedoms through information and education. The center, with offices
at Vanderbilt and Arlington, Va., serves as a forum for the study and
exploration of free-expression issues, including freedom of speech, of the press
and of religion, the right to assemble and petition the government.
The Freedom Forum, based in Arlington, Va., is a nonpartisan foundation
dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit. The foundation focuses on
three priorities: the Newseum, the First Amendment and newsroom diversity. The
Freedom Forum funds the Newseum, an interactive museum of news under development
in Washington, D.C.; the First Amendment Center; and the Diversity Institute.
The Freedom Forum was established in 1991 under the direction of Founder Allen
H. Neuharth as successor to a foundation started in 1935 by newspaper publisher
Frank E. Gannett. The Freedom Forum is not affiliated with Gannett Co. Its work
is supported by income from an endowment of diversified assets.
Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately 5,900
undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded in 1873,
the university comprises 10 schools and a distinguished medical center along
with the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies and the First Amendment