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PORTSIDE  October 2011, Week 1

PORTSIDE October 2011, Week 1

Subject:

Fred Shuttlesworth, Birmingham civil rights legend, dies at 89

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Wed, 5 Oct 2011 23:37:51 -0400

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Fred Shuttlesworth, Birmingham civil rights legend, dies at
89

by Greg Garrison

The Birmingham News
October 5, 2011

http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2011/10/fred_shuttlesworth_obituary.html

(updated with details, historical slideshow)
http://mobile.al.com/advbirm/pm_105888/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=EFadDUbg

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the
driving force behind the Birmingham integration efforts in
the 1950s and early 1960s that energized the national civil
rights movement, died this morning.

He was 89.

The Rev. Shuttlesworth, who was brutally beaten by a mob,
sprayed with city fire hoses, arrested by police 35 times
and also blown out of his bed by a Ku Klux Klan bomb during
his struggle against segregation in Birmingham, said he
never feared death.

"I tried to get killed in Birmingham and go home to God
because I knew it would be better for you in Birmingham," he
once told an audience of students at Lawson State Community
College.

He founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights
in 1956, when he began violating Birmingham's bus
segregation law.

He risked his life again and again -- his house and his
church were bombed; he was beaten by a mob -- to pave the
way for the civil rights.

"That Fred Shuttlesworth did not become a martyr was not for
lack of trying," said his biographer, Andrew Manis, author
of A Fire You Can't Put Out. "There was not a person in the
civil rights movement who put himself in the position of
being killed more often than Fred Shuttlesworth."

The Rev. Shuttlesworth is survived by his wife, Sephira
Shuttlesworth, and his children, Patricia Shuttlesworth
Massengill, Ruby Shuttlesworth Bester, Fred L. Shuttlesworth
Jr., and Carolyn Shuttlesworth.


[Read more on the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement and see
more historical photos.] http://www.al.com/unseen/

Bombing of Shuttlesworth's house

The Rev. Shuttlesworth was pastor of Bethel Baptist Church
in Collegeville from 1953 to 1961, a period when he had
persistent battles with Birmingham's segregationist police
commissioner, Eugene "Bull" Connor.

The defining moment for the Rev. Shuttlesworth came during
the 1956 Christmas night bombing that shattered the church
and crumbled the parsonage next door. He walked out of the
rubble almost unscathed, yet he recalled that the mattress
he was sleeping on was completely blown to bits. "We didn't
find any pieces as large as my fists," he said.

He believed it was a sign from God.

'"Shuttlesworth was convinced that God saved him to lead the
fight," Manis said. It seemed to give him new energy and
even more courage in his efforts to desegregate Birmingham's
buses and schools.

The day after the bombing, he and his supporters were back
in the front seats of city buses, defying segregation laws.
He was arrested for again riding in whites-only seats in
1958. Even his children were arrested in 1960 for violating
bus segregation laws.

The Rev. Shuttlesworth did not have the smooth appeal that
Nobel Peace Prize-winning activist Martin Luther King Jr.
did. The Rev. Shuttlesworth's demeanor often rubbed people
the wrong way. Unlike King, who earned a doctorate from
Boston University and studied the latest trends in theology,
the Rev. Shuttlesworth was truly a country preacher, rough
around the edges, Manis said.

"For the most part he was theologically self-taught; he was
conservative, almost a fundamentalist," Manis said. "He was
obsessed and had this fiery approach to whatever he was
doing."

His boldness in confronting city leaders and breaking laws
he felt were unjust made him controversial, even to many in
the black middle class. He once criticized black millionaire
A.G. Gaston for making remarks about the disruptiveness of
Shuttlesworth's crusade.

[Read more: Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, family relive moment in
history with return to school where they were beaten]
http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2010/09/rev_fred_shuttlesworth_and_fam.html

Relationship with King

The relationship between King and the Rev. Shuttlesworth was
delicate as well. Manis recounts one time in which King and
the Rev. Ralph Abernathy were discussing views of Christ's
Resurrection and the Rev. Shuttlesworth took their comments
as doubt about the historical truth of the Resurrection. The
Rev. Shuttlesworth reacted so intensely to King's suggestion
that the disciples may have seen an apparition that King
never seemed comfortable discussing theology with him again,
Manis said.

Yet King knew how vital Shuttlesworth was to the movement.
"They were not close friends; they were in a sense business
associates," Manis said. "He appreciated what Shuttlesworth
was doing."

But their differing backgrounds and approaches meant they
would never be close friends, as King and Abernathy were.
"That kept King at arm's length from Shuttlesworth," Manis
said. "The movement took all kinds of people. They both
understood their roles."

The Rev. Shuttlesworth had begun pestering King as early as
1959 to focus national demonstrations on Birmingham, writing
letters impatient and irritated in tone.

"Shuttlesworth helped the rest of the movement understand
the way Birmingham was symbolically the strongest bastion of
segregation in the South, with Bull Connor himself being the
symbol of segregation," Manis said. "That was clear to
Shuttlesworth early on."

It may have been clear to King too, but it wasn't until the
disappointment of King's efforts in Albany, Ga., that he
felt the timing was right for Birmingham in 1963. The
success in Birmingham propelled King to even greater
prominence.

When King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he invited a
large entourage with him to accept the prize in Oslo,
Norway. The Rev. Shuttlesworth wasn't one of them, and he
was deeply hurt. "You can make the argument King would not
have won the prize without the success in Birmingham, and
that would not have been possible without the groundwork
laid by Shuttlesworth," Manis said. "He was upset that he
was not included in the entourage to Oslo. I don't exactly
blame him."

The Rev. Shuttlesworth called King about the matter and King
apologized, saying he hadn't thought it through. But the
Rev. Shuttlesworth was also not invited to a subsequent
celebration of the prize in Atlanta. Manis writes that the
Rev. Shuttlesworth held a residual anger toward King, and
disagreed with King's not keeping the pressure on in
Birmingham. The Rev. Shuttlesworth continued to participate
in national protests.

[Read more: Shuttlesworth gets presidential gift from
Clinton, Obama]
http://blog.al.com/birmingham-news-stories/2009/09/shuttlesworth_gets_presidentia.html

Move to Cincinnati

The Rev. Shuttlesworth went through infighting with the
congregation at Revelation Baptist Church in Cincinnati,
which caused a church split. He then helped found Greater
New Light Baptist Church in 1966 with the help of supporters
from the split. He had remained pastor of Greater New Light
until his retirement in 2005.

Even after he moved to Ohio, the Rev. Shuttlesworth still
seemed to spend much of his time in Birmingham. "I used to
say I preached in Cincinnati and pastored in Birmingham," he
said.

Shuttlesworth returned to Birmingham in 2008, living for
awhile in a downtown apartment after undergoing therapy for
a stroke he suffered in 2007. The Birmingham International
Airport was named after him and he attended the premiere of
a documentary highlighting his work at the Birmingham Civil
Rights Institute, where a statue of him stands outside.

He often reflected on the many confrontations in his life.
"Confrontation is not bad," he said. "Goodness is supposed
to confront evil."

==========

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