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Seigenthaler Remembered As A Civil Rights Champion -- Sky Arnold

Nashville, Tenn -- Rip Patton says he lost a good friend Friday when he heard the news longtime editor of The Tennessean John Seigenthaler Sr. was dead.

"He was like a brother to me and I truly miss him," said Patton.

The roots of Patton's friendship with Seigenthaler go back to the Civil Right's movement in 1961.

At that time, Patton was one of the Freedom Riders and he traveled to southern cities with the goal of getting arrested to make a statement about racial segregation.

"Our intent was to fill the jails in Jackson Mississippi," said Patton.

As an assistant to the US Attorney Seigenthaler went with some of the Freedom Riders to Alabama with the goal of helping keep them safe during their travels.

Instead it was Seigenthaler who was attacked and knocked out trying to save two women during a race riot.

"I think it took nerve to pull in there with his car and try to get those females out of harms way," said Patton.

John Seigenthaler would continue to stick his neck out when he became editor of the Tennessean a year later.

As editor, he directed the paper to cover the Civil Rights movement extensively.

Congressman Jim Cooper says it's a decision that made a difference.

 "We had trouble in Nashville.  We could've had big trouble if it hadn't been for folks like John Seigenthaler to get this community to listen to the better angels of our nature," said Cooper.

Some say it's no coincidence Seigenthaler was listening to those better angels.

Bishop David Choby says Seigenthaler was deeply committed to the Catholic Faith.

He believes that faith drove the newspaper editor to the Civil Rights movement in the first place.

"He was a man who had a profound sense of appreciation for the dignity of person and he was committed to speaking out on behalf of individuals who for whatever reason might have been treated unjustly," said Choby.

People like Patton who stayed friends long after the Freedom Riders took their final ride.

"John said the Jim Crow laws here were worse than Apartheid so he did what he could from his office to make sure we had good coverage," said Patton.