Thursday, October 6, 2011

R.I.P. Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

March 22, 1922 - October 5, 2011

We lost a giant yesterday....Not only Steve Jobs but Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth...

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, one of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s chief lieutenants in the 1950s and ’60s, was in his Avondale church when he learned Dr. King had been assassinated in 1968.

“My choir was in rehearsal,” he remembered years later. “I broke the news to them. I said, ‘This is the price.’ ” Cincinnati, a Northern city with a Southern exposure, had its own civil rights struggles in the early years. But the battles in Shuttlesworth’s native Birmingham were vicious. He endured more than two dozen jailings and a $10,000 bounty while leading efforts to desegregate Birmingham’s schools and public facilities.

He was beaten with chains when he tried to enroll his children in an all-white school and escaped death when a bomb destroyed the parsonage of his church in Birmingham on Christmas Day, 1956.

Dr.King feared Shuttlesworth’s in-your-face style might make him the movement’s first martyr. That never happened. Lured by better pay and improved educational opportunities for his children, Fred Shuttlesworth moved to Cincinnati in 1971, serving first as pastor of Revelation Baptist Church and later at Greater New Light Baptist Church.

Cincinnati embraced Reverend Shuttlesworth during his 47-year stay in the city. It was a polite embrace, not passionate. The civil rights icon was given his due and left in peace.

When he retired from the ministry in 2006, he reflected: “People ask me if I’m excited,” he said. “I’m never excited. I excite things. I’m in the world to excite things so things might get done.”

After a stroke, Reverend Shuttlesworth moved back to Birmingham in 2008 for health reasons, to a town that now adores him, erected a statue of him and named its airport for him.

He turned 89 on March 22.


Arlene said...

Keith, I knew you wouldn't miss this important news. Last evening the airwaves were filled with tributes for Steve Jobs and rightly so, just as your blog says Mr. Jobs was a remarkable technician and visionary putting computers in the everymans' hand. But Rev Shuttlesworth led in getting the police off our backs and rights we could defend. He used the Word of God, the only power that changes hearts to affect change. My prayers are of thanksgiving for his life.

Arlene said...

Keith, we also lost Derrick Bell, the renowned lawyer, first Black Law DEAN at Harvard and a gifted writer like you. We will surely miss him as well!!


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