“The most courageous Civil Rights fighter in the South.”
1. Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth was a man that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the most courageous civil rights fighter in the South.” He was also labeled by many as the “the man most feared by Southern racists.” Rev. Shuttlesworth was known as combative and confrontational when it came to the fight for civil and human rights. He allegedly once warned Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that history would not look kindly on those who gave “flowery speeches” but did not act on them.
2. During his lifetime Shuttlesworth survived two bombings, dozens of arrests, and a number of police beatings that left him hospitalized. Rev. Shuttlesworth believed that GOD would protect him as he did his work after surving a KKK bombing that consisted of sixteen sticks of dynamites being placed in his bedroom windom. This bombing leveled his bedroom floor, walls and even the mattress he was sleeping on but left him unharmed. He once vowed to “kill segregation or be killed by it”.
3. Fred Shuttlesworth had a major part in the passing of the two major pieces of Civil Rights legislation. His participation and leadership during the march from Selma to Montgomery helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Shuttlesworth’s participation in St. Augustine during their violent Civil Rights marches and Beach wade-ins helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
4. Rev. Shuttlesworth was a minister in both Birmingham, AL and Cincinnati, OH. He was a co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a fearless Civil Rights leader during the Birmingham campaign, and established the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights after the NAACP was outlawed in Alabama.
5. In 1957 Rev. Shuttlesworth attempted to enroll his daughters in an All-White school. As a result a mob attacked him and beat him unconscious and stabbed his wife. When a doctor remarked that Shuttlesworth was lucky to have avoided a concussion, Shuttlesworth allegedly said, “Doctor, the Lord knew I lived in a hard town, so he gave me a hard head.”
6. Fred Shuttlesworth also played a part in organizing the Congress on Racial Equality’s Freedom Rides. He even took the riders into his church in Birmingham to recover after they encountered violence during their trip through Alabama. Attorney Robert F. Kennedy gave Shuttlesworth his phone number after the violence in the event that the Freedom Riders encountered any more physical attacks in Alabama. His passion and commitment made him a role model to the Freedom Riders.
7. Fred Shuttlesworth was born Freddie Lee Robinson in Mount Meigs, Alabama on March 18, 1922 to Vetta Green and Alberta Robinson. However he took the name of his stepfather who raised him, William N. Shuttlesworth later in life. Fred had four children, Patricia Shuttlesworth Massengill, Ruby Shuttlesworth Bester, Fred L. Shuttlesworth Jr.,and Carolyn Shuttlesworth with his first wife Ruby Keeler Shuttlesworth. He and Ruby divorced in 1970. He married his second wife Sephira Bailey in 2007.
8. In 2007, during an anniversary of the Voting Rights marches from Selma to Montgomery marches Future President Barack Obama pushed Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Also, in 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded Shuttlesworth the Presidential Citizens Medal, which is the nation’s second highest civilian award. The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is also named in his honor.
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