Kennedys, Gore among thousands honoring memory of Seigenthaler - WKRN News 2

Kennedys, Gore among thousands honoring memory of John Seigenthaler

Posted: Updated: Jul 14, 2014 07:12 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

There were some famous faces, but most of all Nashville's Cathedral of the Incarnation was filled Monday with those touched by legendary journalist and civil rights activist John Seigenthaler.

Former Vice President Al Gore and members of the Kennedy family were among an estimated 2,000 mourners who attended the funeral which accommodated an overflow crowd in a nearby auditorium.

The service reflected the wide reach of Seigenthaler's career, which included leading the newspapers The Tennessean, the editorial page of USA Today and working as a civil rights adviser during the administration of John F. Kennedy.

Seigenthaler also was part of Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign and was a pallbearer at Kennedy's funeral after his assassination in 1968.

“He was just the most wonderful guy, I was so lucky to know him and Bobby adored him,” said RFK's widow Ethel Kennedy after the service. "He's now among the greats in heaven, and I know they are having a blast.

Joseph Kennedy II, Robert Kennedy's oldest son was at the service along with his mother and several other family members.

"He was so full of life and joy and he gave to so many others, he is this city to the rest of the country," said Kennedy who came to the Seigenthaler service on crutches. "He was a great friend and he helped my father out so often and my family, and we have a deep debt of gratitude to John Seigenthaler and his family."

Former Vice-President Al Gore's first job after serving in Vietnam was at the Nashville newspaper where Seigenthaler was then editor.

"You see this gathering from all over the country, and from some other countries, it just scratches the surface of those who were moved by him, changed by him, I was one of them," Gore said after the service. "He was certainly one of the most important role models and mentors I had in my life."

Seigenthaler's son John Michael, a prominent journalist in his own right, told those at the service how his family was, "overwhelmed by your words, love and support."

He offered some gentle humor about his father's faults ranging from "never being on time" to impatience and being "a terrible driver."

"Had he known how to text, we would have probably would have been in this church sooner," quipped Seigenthaler's son, drawing laughs that filled the cathedral.

John Seigenthaler's 16-year-old grandson Jack followed with more words about a very public man whose family came first.

"No matter what age he was, he never treated me like a kid, it's a rare thing to call someone 70-years older than you a friend," he said. "He never felt old to me, I knew that he had seen the world twice over, but he had a talent for taking you where he'd been, a master storyteller."

After stepping down as publisher of the Tennessean in the early 1990s, Seigenthaler later founded the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. He was still writing and working there until just days before he died Friday at the age of 86.

Sunday, the lines were long to pay respects to Seigenthaler’s family at the center now named for him on Vanderbilt’s campus.

No one minded waited up to two hours to see the numerous Seigenthaler family members and John's wife Dolores.

“He would love seeing at, 86 years old, that his popularity hasn’t waned whatsoever,” daughter-in-law Kerry Brock told News 2.

Brock married Seigenthaler’s only son more than 20 years ago.

“He called my son all the time. He came to visit frequently and he shared so many lessons of life with Jack at every age,” Brock reminisced.

“He traveled the world, but his life and his heart were in Nashville. He always came home to Nashville,” she said on Sunday.

The family also told News 2 it was overwhelming and gratifying to see so many come to pay their respects, everyone who feels the same way they do: that Seigenthaler’s passing is the loss of a real treasure.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to Room in the Inn or the First Amendment Center.

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