Fred Shuttlesworth, Noted Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 89

Fred Shuttlesworth, Noted Civil Rights Leader, Dies at 89

Born Freddie Lee Robinson in rural Mount Meigs, Alabama, Fred Shuttlesworth worked as a sharecropper, bootlegger and truck driver before entering the ministry and becoming pastor of Birmingham’s Bethel Baptist Church in 1953. Three years later, after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was barred from operating in the state, he formed the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). In December 1956, on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down racial segregation on public transportation in Montgomery, Shuttlesworth and the ACMHR announced plans to challenge similar restrictions in Birmingham with a protest. Shuttlesworth narrowly escaped an attempt on his life on the eve of the event, and the city’s buses were integrated soon after.

The following year, Shuttlesworth became a co-founder—along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Bayard Rustin and others—of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), dedicated to the use of nonviolent methods to combat segregationist laws. He played an integral role in the 1961 Freedom Rides, aimed at desegregating public transportation facilities throughout the South. Aware that the Riders faced threats of violence, he mobilized local clergy in an attempt to provide them with safe passage through the state—and later offered many of them sanctuary after the brutal physical reprisals he had feared came to pass.

Though they worked closely together for many years, Shuttlesworth and King made an unlikely pair. Whereas King was sometimes deemed too cautious and conciliatory, Shuttlesworth was outspoken, temperamental and willing to use conflict to further the aims of the civil rights movement. In this spirit, he dubbed one of his most well known actions Project C (for “confrontation); it was also known as the Birmingham campaign.

In 1963, Shuttlesworth invited King to Birmingham to help lead a series of demonstrations in the city, which was one of the most racially divided in the United States. A series of boycotts and sit-ins resulted in mass arrests for the protestors, including King, but failed to garner national attention or produce any measureable results. Faced with a depleted volunteer force, Shuttlesworth and the SCLC made the controversial–and dangerous–decision for teenagers and schoolchildren to participate in the demonstrations. Some 2,000 students joined the “children’s crusade,” as it became known, and more than 600 of them were arrested. As expected, Birmingham officials, led by Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Connor, reacted aggressively, turning on the protestors with attack dogs and firefighters’ hoses. Captured by the media, these scenes provoked a national outcry and eventually led to the breakdown of the city’s racist policies.

Though some within the civil rights movement criticized his actions and use of antagonism to achieve his goals, there was no doubting Shuttlesworth’s personal courage. He was jailed dozens of times, survived three attempts on his life and survived a brutal beating at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan when he attempted to enroll his own children in a segregated school. After the Birmingham campaign, Shuttlesworth continued to work throughout the South on a series of initiatives, including integration efforts in Florida and the march from Selma to Montgomery, which served as a catalyst for the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In his later years Shuttlesworth split his time between Alabama and Ohio, where he took a job as the pastor of a local church. In 2004 he was named president of the SCLC, the organization he had helped create nearly 50 years earlier, but stepped down after a brief tenure. Health issues led him to relocate permanently to Birmingham in 2008.


Born in Mount Meigs, Alabama, Shuttlesworth became pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1953 and was Membership Chairman of the Alabama state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1956, when the State of Alabama formally outlawed it from operating within the state. In May 1956, Shuttlesworth and Ed Gardner established the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights to take up the work formerly done by the NAACP.

The ACMHR raised almost all of its funds from local sources at mass meetings. It used both litigation and direct action to pursue its goals. When the authorities ignored the ACMHR's demand that the City hire black police officers, the organization sued. Similarly, when the United States Supreme Court ruled in December 1956 that bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, was unconstitutional, Shuttlesworth announced that the ACMHR would challenge segregation laws in Birmingham on December 26, 1956.

On December 25, 1956, unknown persons tried to kill Shuttlesworth by placing sixteen sticks of dynamite under his bedroom window. Shuttlesworth somehow escaped unhurt even though his house was heavily damaged. A police officer, who also belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, told Shuttlesworth as he came out of his home, "If I were you I'd get out of town as quick as I could". Shuttlesworth told him to tell the Klan that he was not leaving and "I wasn't raised to run."

Fred Shuttlesworth attended Rosedale High School from which he graduated as the valedictorian. [3] Shuttlesworth studied at Selma University, earning his B.A. in 1951, and later earned his B.S. from Alabama State University. Shuttlesworth got his licensed as a country preacher when he was changing from a Methodist to a Baptist Christian. [4]

External video
“Interview with Fred Shuttlesworth” conducted in 1985 for the Eyes on the Prize documentary in which he discusses his involvement in Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), along with civil rights campaigns in the South, particularly focusing on Birmingham..

In 1957, Shuttlesworth, along with Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy from Montgomery, Joseph Lowery from Mobile, Alabama, T. J. Jemison from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Charles Kenzie Steele from Tallahassee, Florida, A. L. Davis from New Orleans, Louisiana, Bayard Rustin and Ella Baker founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The SCLC adopted a motto to underscore its commitment to nonviolence: "Not one hair of one head of one person should be harmed."

Shuttlesworth embraced that philosophy, even though his own personality was combative, headstrong and sometimes blunt-spoken to the point that he frequently antagonized his colleagues in the Civil Rights Movement as well as his opponents. He was not shy in asking King to take a more active role in leading the fight against segregation and warning that history would not look kindly on those who gave "flowery speeches" but did not act on them. He alienated some members of his congregation by devoting as much time as he did to the movement at the expense of weddings, funerals, and other ordinary church functions.

As a result, in 1961, Shuttlesworth moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to take up the pastorage of the Revelation Baptist Church. He remained intensely involved in the Birmingham campaign after moving to Cincinnati, and frequently returned to help lead actions.

Shuttlesworth was apparently personally fearless, even though he was aware of the risks he ran. Other committed activists were scared off or mystified by his willingness to accept the risk of death. Shuttlesworth himself vowed to "kill segregation or be killed by it". [2]

When Shuttlesworth and his wife Ruby attempted to enroll their children in John Herbert Phillips High School, [5] a previously all-white public school in Birmingham in the summer of 1957, [6] a mob of Klansmen attacked them, with the police nowhere to be seen. The mob beat Shuttlesworth with "chains, baseball bats and brass knuckles, and his wife was stabbed in the hips". [4] [5] His assailants included Bobby Frank Cherry, who six years later was involved in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing. Shuttlesworth drove himself and his wife to the hospital, where he told his children to "always forgive." [ citation needed ]

In 1958, Shuttlesworth survived another attempt on his life. A church member standing guard saw a bomb that had been placed by the church and quickly moved it to the street before it went off. [2]

Shuttlesworth participated in the sit-ins against segregated lunch counters in 1960 and took part in the organization and completion of the Freedom Rides in 1961.

Shuttlesworth originally warned that Alabama was extremely volatile when he was consulted before the Freedom Rides began. Shuttlesworth noted that he respected the courage of the activists proposing the Rides but that he felt other actions could be taken to accelerate the Civil Rights Movement that would be less dangerous. [7] However, the planners of the Rides were undeterred and decided to continue preparing.

After it became certain that the Freedom Rides were to be carried out, Shuttlesworth worked with the Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) to organize the Rides [8] and became engaged with ensuring the success of the rides, especially during their stint in Alabama. [9] Shuttlesworth mobilized some of his fellow clergy to assist the rides. After the Riders were badly beaten and nearly killed in Birmingham and Anniston during the Rides, he sent deacons to pick up the Riders from a hospital in Anniston. He himself had been brutalized earlier in the day and had faced down the threat of being thrown out of the hospital by the hospital superintendent. [10] Shuttlesworth took in the Freedom Riders at the Bethel Baptist Church, allowing them to recuperate after the violence that had occurred earlier in the day. [11]

The violence in Anniston and Birmingham almost led to a quick end to the Freedom Rides. However, the actions of supporters like Shuttlesworth gave James Farmer, the leader of C.O.R.E., which had originally organized the Freedom Rides, and other activists the courage to press forward. [12] After the violence that occurred in Alabama but before the Freedom Riders could move on, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy gave Shuttlesworth his personal phone number in case the Freedom Riders needed federal support. [13]

When Shuttlesworth prepared the Riders to leave Birmingham and they reached the Greyhound Terminal, the Riders found themselves stranded as no bus driver was willing to drive the controversial group into Mississippi. [13] Shuttlesworth stuck with the Riders [14] and called Kennedy. [13] Prompted by Shuttlesworth, Kennedy tried to find a replacement bus driver his efforts eventually proved unsuccessful. The Riders then decided to take a plane to New Orleans (where they had planned on finishing the Rides) and were assisted by Shuttlesworth in getting to the airport and onto the plane. [15]

Shuttlesworth's commitment to the Freedom Rides was highlighted by Diane Nash, a student activist in the Nashville Student Movement and a major organizer of the later waves of Rides. Nash noted,

Fred was practically a legend. I think it was important – for me, definitely, and for a city of people who were carrying on a movement – for there to be somebody that really represented strength, and that's certainly what Fred did. He would not back down, and you could count on it. He would not sell out, [and] you could count on that. [2]

The students involved in the Rides appreciated Shuttlesworth's commitment to the principles of the Freedom Rides – ending the segregationist laws of the Jim Crow South. Shuttlesworth's fervent passion for equality made him a role model to many of the Riders. [2]

Shuttlesworth invited SCLC and King to come to Birmingham in 1963 to lead the campaign to desegregate it through mass demonstrations–what Shuttlesworth called "Project C", the "C" standing for "confrontation". While Shuttlesworth was willing to negotiate with political and business leaders for peaceful abandonment of segregation, he believed, with good reason, that they would not take any steps that they were not forced to take. He suspected their promises could not be trusted until they acted on them.One of the 1963 demonstrations he led resulted in Shuttlesworth's being convicted of parading without a permit from the City Commission. On appeals the case reached the US Supreme Court. In its 1969 decision of Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, the Supreme Court reversed Shuttlesworth's conviction, determining that circumstances indicated that the parade permit was denied not to control traffic, as the state contended, but to censor ideas.

In 1963, Shuttlesworth was set on provoking a crisis that would force the authorities and business leaders to recalculate the cost of segregation. This occurred when James Bevel initiated and organized the young students of the city to stand up for their rights. [16] This plan was helped immeasurably by Eugene "Bull" Connor, the Commissioner of Public Safety and the most powerful public official in Birmingham, who used Klan groups to heighten violence against blacks in the city. Even as the business class was beginning to see the end of segregation, Connor was determined to maintain it. While Connor's direct police tactics intimidated black citizens of Birmingham, they also created a split between Connor and the business leaders. They resented both the damage Connor was doing to Birmingham's image around the world and his high-handed attitude toward them.

Similarly, while Connor may have benefited politically in the short run from Shuttlesworth's and Bevel's determined provocations, they also fit into Shuttleworth's long-term plans. The televised images of Connor's directing handlers of police dogs to attack young unarmed demonstrators and firefighters' using hoses to knock down children had a profound effect on American citizens' view of the civil rights struggle, and helped lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Shuttlesworth's activities were not limited to Birmingham. In 1964, he traveled to St. Augustine, Florida (which he often cited as the place where the civil rights struggle met with the most violent resistance), taking part in marches and widely publicized beach wade-ins.

In 1965, he was active in the Selma Voting Rights Movement, and its march from Selma to Montgomery which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Shuttlesworth thus played a role in the efforts that led to the passage of the two great legislative accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement. In later years he took part in commemorative activities in Selma at the time of the anniversary of the famous march. And he returned to St. Augustine in 2004 to take part in a celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the St. Augustine movement there. [2] [17]

Shuttlesworth organized the Greater New Light Baptist Church in 1966.

In 1978, Shuttlesworth was portrayed by Roger Robinson in the television miniseries King.

Shuttlesworth founded the "Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation" in 1988 to assist families who might otherwise be unable to buy their own homes.

In 1998, Shuttlesworth became an early signer and supporter of the Birmingham Pledge, a grassroots community committed to combating racism and prejudice. It has since then been used for programs in all fifty states and in more than twenty countries. [18]

In 1998, South Crescent Avenue in Cincinnati was renamed in his honor. [19]

On January 8, 2001, he was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton. Named president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in August 2004, he resigned later in the year, complaining that "deceit, mistrust and a lack of spiritual discipline and truth have eaten at the core of this once-hallowed organization".

In 2004, Shuttlesworth received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award is given out annually by Jefferson Awards. [20]

During the 2004 election that overturned a city charter provision that prohibited Cincinnati's City Council from adopting any gay rights ordinance, [21] Shuttlesworth voiced advertisements urging voters to reject the repeal, saying "The thing that I disagree with is when gay people . equate civil rights, what we did in the '50s and '60s, with special rights . I think what they propose is special rights. Sexual rights is not the same as civil rights and human rights." [22]

Although he was born Freddie Lee Robinson, Shuttlesworth took the name of his stepfather, William N. Shuttlesworth. [23] His stepfather, William N. Shuttlesworth, worked as a coal miner and a bootlegger. [24]

Fred's mother Alberta died in 1995 at the age of 95. [4]

Shuttlesworth was married to Ruby Keeler Shuttlesworth, with whom he had four children: Patricia Shuttlesworth Massengill, Ruby Shuttlesworth Bester, Fred L. Shuttlesworth Jr., and Carolyn Shuttlesworth. The Shuttleworths divorced in 1970, and Ruby died the following year. [25]

Prompted by the removal of a non-cancerous brain tumor in August of the previous year, he gave his final sermon in front of 300 people at the Greater New Light Baptist Church on March 19, 2006—the weekend of his 84th birthday. He and his second wife, Sephira, moved to downtown Birmingham where he was receiving medical treatment.

On July 16, 2008, the Birmingham, Alabama, Airport Authority approved changing the name of the Birmingham's airport in honor of Shuttlesworth. On October 27, 2008, the airport was officially changed to Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport.

On October 5, 2011, Shuttlesworth died at the age of 89 in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute announced that it intends to include Shuttlesworth's burial site on the Civil Rights History Trail. [26] [27] By order of Alabama governor Robert Bentley, flags on state government buildings were to be lowered to half-staff until Shuttlesworth's interment. [28]

Civil Rights Leader, SCLC Co-Founder Fred L. Shuttlesworth Dies at 89

The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, civil rights champion and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), died Wednesday at Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala.

Shuttlesworth's health failed after he suffered a stroke in 2007. It was not immediately known what was the cause of his death, his daughter told The Washington Post.

A former truck driver who dedicated himself to studying religion at night, Shuttlesworth saw the fruits of his labor realized when, in 1953, he became pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham.

In 1957, following the impressive Montgomery bus boycott, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. recruited Shuttleswoth to assist him in creating the (SCLC), which would later go on to organize the historic March on Washington.

King would refer to Shuttlesworth, in his 1963 book Why We Can't Wait, as "one of the nation's most courageous freedom fighters . a wiry, energetic and indomitable man."

During his struggle for the principle of civil rights, Shuttlesworth faced attack dogs, a 1957 bombing, and injuries to his dignity and person during his valiant efforts for equality.

In the early 1960s, he fought homelessness while living in Cincinnati, Ohio and continued his fight against racism. He also established the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation in Cincinnati, which provided grants to help low-income families to buy homes.

President Barack Obama payed tribute to Shuttlesworth in a statement on the White House website:

"Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth today, as one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Reverend Shuttlesworth dedicated his life to advancing the cause of justice for all Americans."

The president continued, "He was a testament to the strength of the human spirit. And today, we stand on his shoulders, and the shoulders of all those who marched and sat and lifted their voices to help perfect our union."

Rep. John Lewis ( D-Ga), himself a victim of violence during the civil rights movement, spoke of Shuttlesworth to the Birmingham News, "He was free. He was really free of any bitterness or anger. In spite of the personal attack, he was beaten, the bombing that occurred, his wife, in spite of all of that, he didn't hold on to that. He was always very hopeful, so optimistic and a very warm loving human being."

Later Years

Shuttlesworth later established the Greater New Light Baptist Church in the middle of the 1960s in Cincinnati. Fast forward to the 1980s, and he founded another organization, the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation, providing grants for home ownership.

In the new millennium, Shuttlesworth received the Presidential Citizens Medal from Bill Clinton in 2001, with the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport named in his honor in 2008. Shuttlesworth also became president of the SCLC mid-decade, though he soon left due to disagreements with the internal workings of the organization.

In 2007, Fred Shuttlesworth moved back to Birmingham, where died on October 5, 2011, at 89 years old. The minister at one point had thought he wouldn&apost live to see 40, dwelling in the Deep South during tumult. He was survived by Sephira Bailey, his second wife, and a large family. An award-winning 1999 biography on Shuttlesworth—A Fire You Can&apost Put Out—was penned by Andrew M. Manis.

Age, Height & Measurements

Fred Shuttlesworth has been died on Oct 5, 2011 ( age 89). He born under the Pisces horoscope as Fred's birth date is March 18. Fred Shuttlesworth height 7 Feet 8 Inches (Approx) & weight 122 lbs (55.3 kg) (Approx.). Right now we don't know about body measurements. We will update in this article.

Height4 Feet 8 Inches (Approx)
Weight163 lbs (73.9 kg) (Approx)
Body Measurements
Eye ColorDark Brown
Hair ColorLight Brown
Dress SizeM
Shoe Size6 (US), 5 (UK), 39 (EU), 24.5 (CM)


In the 1950s and 1960s, Birmingham, Alabama was a hotbed of racial hatred. So hot, in fact, that the town got the nick name Bombingham. Among those targeted by bombings was the fiery preacher Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. On December 25, 1956, the reverend’s house was bombed while he was inside. The house incurred terrible damage, but Shuttlesworth emerged unharmed. Shuttlesworth’s active agitation for civil rights in Birmingham is what led to the bombing.

In 1953, Shuttlesworth became the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, and after the Brown v. Board decision in 1954, he became determined to secure equal rights for African Americans. In 1956, he created the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. The bombing occurred after the organization was created, and it was no doubt an effort to weaken his resolve, but it failed.

Still determined to make change, in 1957 Shuttlesworth tried to integrate a local whites only high school by enrolling his own daughter. As a result, he was brutally beaten with chains and brass knuckles. Despite his injuries, Shuttlesworth kept moving forward. That same year he and other civil rights leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would start the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Dr. King, Shuttlesworth, and others would work together to plan the famous Birmingham children’s marches and civil rights demonstrations, but make no mistake, it was the ground work done by Shuttlesworth that made Birmingham ripe for change. According to Ahmad Ward, Head of Education at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, “Without Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, Birmingham would not have worked…He is the reason King comes to [Birmingham] in the first place.”

Indeed, Shuttlesworth was a very important component to the movement, but differences between he and Dr. King were always a point of contention. According to Diane McWhorter, author of “Carry Me Home,” a book about the struggle in Birmingham, Shuttlesworth “was Martin Luther King’s most effective and insistent foil: blunt where King was soothing, driven where King was leisurely, and most important, confrontational where King was conciliatory — meaning, critically, that he was more upsetting than King in the eyes of the white public” (Nordheimer, 2011).

There backgrounds were even more different than their approaches to the movement. Dr. King was a part of Atlanta’s middle class elite and he was a Morehouse graduate with a Ph. D. Shuttlesworth was born poor in rural Alabama and, at the time, held only a ministerial degree from an unaccredited black school. Needless to say, their upbringing colored the way they saw the movement. To Shuttlesworth, a man of the people, there was much more at stake. There was a greater sense of urgency and a need to be forthright in the face of opposition.

Fred Shuttlesworth, born Freddie Lee Robinson and taking the name Shuttlesworth from his stepfather, was born March 18, 1922. He spent his life preaching the gospel and fighting for the rights of his people. Despite the beatings and bombings he experienced, he never lost his faith in God, and he never gave up. He died on October 5, 2011, leaving behind the great legacy of a movement that changed the world.

Civil rights leader the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth dies

The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, who was bombed, beaten and repeatedly arrested in the fight for civil rights and hailed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for his courage and energy, has died. He was 89.

The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, who was bombed, beaten and repeatedly arrested in the fight for civil rights and hailed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for his courage and energy, has died. He was 89.

Princeton Baptist Medical Center spokeswoman Jennifer Dodd confirmed he died at the Birmingham hospital Wednesday morning..

Shuttlesworth, a former truck driver who studied religion at night, became pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1953 and soon was an outspoken leader in the fight for racial equality.

“My church was a beehive,” Shuttlesworth once said. “I made the movement. I made the challenge. Birmingham was the citadel of segregation, and the people wanted to march.”

In his 1963 book “Why We Can’t Wait,” King called Shuttlesworth “one of the nation’s the most courageous freedom fighters . a wiry, energetic and indomitable man.”

He survived a 1956 bombing, an assault during a 1957 demonstration, chest injuries when Birmingham authorities turned fire hoses on demonstrators in 1963, and countless arrests.

“I went to jail 30 or 40 times, not for fighting or stealing or drugs,” Shuttlesworth told grade school students in 1997. “I went to jail for a good thing, trying to make a difference.”

He visited frequently and remained active in the movement in Alabama even after moving in 1961 to Cincinnati, where he was a pastor for most of the next 47 years. He moved back to Birmingham in February 2008 for rehabilitation after a mild stroke. That summer, the once-segregated city honored him with a four-day tribute and named its airport after him his statue stands outside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

And in November 2008, Shuttlesworth watched from a hospital bed as Sen. Barack Obama was elected the nation’s first African-American president. The year before, Obama had pushed Shuttlesworth’s wheelchair across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma during a commemoration of the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march.

In the early 1960s, Shuttlesworth had invited King back to Birmingham. Televised scenes of police dogs and fire hoses being turned on black marchers, including children, in spring 1963 helped the rest of the nation grasp the depth of racial animosity in the Deep South.

. “He marched into the jaws of death every day in Birmingham before we got there,” Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador who was an aide to King, said Wednesday.

Young said it was Shuttlesworth’s fearlessness that persuaded King to take the fight for equality to Birmingham.

“We shouldn’t have been strong enough to take on Birmingham . But God had a plan that was far better than our plan,” Young said. “Fred didn’t invite us to come to Birmingham. He told us we had to come.”

Referring to the city’s notoriously racist safety commissioner, Shuttlesworth would tell followers, “We’re telling ol’ ’Bull’ Connor right here tonight that we’re on the march and we’re not going to stop marching until we get our rights.”

According to a May 1963 New York Times profile of Shuttlesworth, Connor responded to the word Shuttlesworth had been injured by the spray of fire hoses by saying: “I’m sorry I missed it. . I wish they’d carried him away in a hearse.”

Fellow civil rights pioneer the Rev. Joseph Lowery said Shuttlesworth a courageous and determined leader.

“When God made Bull Connor, one of the real negative forces in this country, He was sure to make Fred Shuttlesworth.” Lowery said Wednesday.

While King went on to international fame, Shuttlesworth was relatively little known outside Alabama. But he was a key figure in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary, 𔄜 Little Girls,” about the September 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four black children.

He also gained attention in Diane McWhorter’s book “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution,” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002.

Shuttlesworth was born March 18, 1922, near Montgomery and grew up in Birmingham.

As a child, he knew he would either be a minister or a doctor and by 1943, he decided to enter the ministry. He began taking theological courses at night while working as a truck driver and cement worker during the day. He was licensed to preach in 1944 and ordained in 1948.

It was 1954 when King, then a pastor in Montgomery, came to Birmingham to give a speech and asked to stop by Bethel Baptist and meet Shuttlesworth. Shuttlesworth already knew the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who became a key aide to King, as they both attended Alabama State College, later known as Selma University.

Meanwhile, in Montgomery, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus in late 1955, prompting the boycott led by King that gave new life to the civil rights movement.

In January 1956, King’s Montgomery home was bombed while he attended a rally. Eleven months later, on Christmas night 1956, 16 sticks of dynamite were detonated outside Shuttlesworth’s bedroom as he slept at the Bethel Baptist parsonage. No one was injured in either bombing, although shards of glass and wood pierced Shuttleworth’s coat and hat, which were hanging on a hook.

The next day, Shuttlesworth led 250 people in a protest of segregation on buses in Birmingham.

In 1957, he was beaten by a mob when he tried to enroll two of his children in an all-white school in Birmingham.

In Cincinnati, Shuttlesworth left Revelation Baptist Church and became pastor of the Greater New Light Baptist Church in 1966. He also founded a foundation to help low-income people make down payments on homes.

In 2004, he was president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for about three months. The troubled organization’s board had suspended Shuttlesworth without giving a reason after he tried to fire a longtime official. He resigned, saying board members tried to micromanage the organization.

He was 84 when he retired as the pastor of Greater New Light in 2006. “The best thing we can do is be a servant of God,” he said in his final sermon. “It does good to stand up and serve others.”

Associated Press writers Errin Haines in Atlanta, Kendal Weaver in Montgomery, Ala., and Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

Default Album

In this March 14, 2006 file photo, The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth poses inside of the The Greater New Light Baptist Church in Cincinnati. In a June 17, 1963 file photo, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, left, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Atlanta, Ga., and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of the Revelation Baptist Church of Cincinnati, Ohio, talk to reporters at the White House in Washington, after a conference with President Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth speaks in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2006. The discovery of previously unpublished photos from the height of the civil rights turmoil in Alabama evokes sharp memories for Shuttlesworth, who fought for equality alongside Martin Luther King Jr. In a May 8, 1963 file photo, civil rights leaders, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., left, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, center, and Rev. Ralph Abernathy hold a news conference in Birmingham, Ala. The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, left, stands with former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman after the first day of the sentencing phase of Siegelman's federal corruption trial, Tuesday, June 26, 2007, in Montgomery, Ala. In this May 15, 1963 picture shows civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth holds a news conference in Birmingham, Ala.

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth – Gone But Not Forgotten

Born on March 18, 1922, in Mount Meigs, Alabama, Fred Shuttlesworth was a Baptist minister and one of the South’s most prominent Civil Rights leaders. He worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., co-founding the SCLC and organizing direct-action protests in Birmingham, refusing to waver even after multiple attacks. Also a community activist in Cincinnati, he died on October 5, 2011.
Born Freddie Lee Robinson to a large clan that eventually moved to Birmingham when he was a toddler, Robinson took the surname Shuttlesworth from his stepfather, William, who had married his mother Alberta and worked as a farmer and coal miner.
Graduating valedictorian from his high school, Fred Shuttlesworth worked assorted jobs before finding his calling to the pulpit, studying at the ministerial institution Selma University and earning his B.A. in 1951, later earning his B.S. from Alabama State College.
Shuttlesworth became pastor of Birmingham’s Bethel Baptist Church in 1953. After the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, he was further inspired to actively participate in the growing Civil Rights Movement. He called for the hiring of African-American police officers and, with the outlawing of the NAACP in his home state, Shuttlesworth established the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights in 1956.
He also co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with other leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Bayard Rustin. Shuttlesworth, with King and fellow minister Ralph D. Abernathy, would later be seen as one of the movement’s “Big Three.”
After the desegregation of Montgomery busses due to the citywide boycott inspired by Rosa Parks, Shuttlesworth was organizing efforts in his city to implement bus desegregation as well when his residence was bombed on Christmas, with the pastor inside. He nonetheless steadfastly proceeded with plans later, when he and his wife took their daughter to integrate a white school, the couple were brutally attacked by a Ku Klux Klan mob.
Shuttlesworth held fast to his firm belief in direct action and was a key leader throughout the history of the movement, though he had relocated to Cincinnati in the early 1960s and hence routinely travelled back to the South. After the May 14, 1961, attacks on the Freedom Riders, Shuttlesworth provided refuge for the activists, with outreach made to Attorney General Robert Kennedy for assistance. He also convinced Dr. King to have Birmingham become a focal point of the movement and organized well-documented youth-driven marches and protests, in which he was badly hurt at one point in 1963. And Shuttlesworth was an organizer of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights march.
Shuttlesworth was arrested many, many times over the course of his activism, yet in later interviews would talk about the power of his faith in sustaining him.
Shuttlesworth established the Greater New Light Baptist Church in the middle of the 1960s in Cincinnati. Fast forward to the 1980s, and he founded another organization, the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation, providing grants for home ownership.
In the new millennium, Shuttlesworth received the Presidential Citizens Medal from Bill Clinton in 2001, with the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport named in his honor in 2008. Shuttlesworth also became president of the SCLC mid-decade, though he soon left due to disagreements with the internal workings of the organization.
In 2007, Fred Shuttlesworth moved back to Birmingham, where died at the age of 89. The minister at one point had thought he wouldn’t live to see 40, dwelling in the Deep South during tumult. He was survived by Sephira Bailey, his second wife, and a large family. An award-winning 1999 biography on Shuttlesworth—A Fire You Can’t Put Out—was penned by Andrew M. Manis.

Watch the video: Civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth dies at 89