Civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, well remembered for his instrumental role in leading the fight against segregation and other forms of racism in Birmingham, Alabama, died Wednesday at 89 years old.
Described in a 1961 CBS documentary as “the man most feared by Southern racists,” Shuttlesworth survived bombings, beatings, repeated arrests and jailings, as well as other attacks — physical and financial — in his steadfast effort to secure racial equality.
In one of the incidents, Shuttlesworth was almost killed in a 1956 Christmas bombing when members of the KKK set off 16 sticks of dynamite outside the bedroom of his church parsonage.
“Instead of running away from the blast, running away from the Klansman,” Shuttlesworth said later. “I said to the Klansman police that came — he said, ‘Reverend, if I were you I’d get out of town fast.’ I said, ‘Officer you’re not me. You go back and tell your Klan brethren if God could keep me through this, then I’m here for the duration.’”
Following his retirement from Greater New Light Baptist Church in Cincinnati in 2006, Shuttlesworth moved back to Birmingham for rehabilitation after a mild stroke.
That summer, the city honored him with a four-day tribute and named its airport after him. His statue also stands outside the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
One of his last public appearances was at a celebration of President Obama’s inauguration, called “Where History Meets Hope.”
Upon hearing the news of Shuttlesworth’s passing, Georgia Rep. John Lewis released a statement on his official site that said:
“[Shuttlesworth] was an inspiring force. He was one of the bravest members of the Civil Rights Movement. He inspired countless people in the most resistant, dangerous areas of the South, and those around the nation, to stand up against injustice. All of us, each and every American as well as all those around the world who have used the Civil Rights movement as a template for their own struggles for change, owe Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth a heavy debt of gratitude for his willingness to give all he had to help build a more fair, more just society.”
via Christian Post