Fred Shuttlesworth, a prominent civil rights leader who worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy, died in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday. He was 89.
Daddy lived an incredible life and now he's at peace, Patricia Shuttlesworth Massengill, Shuttlesworth's eldest daughter, told USA Today.
Shuttlesworth, a minister, began his involvement in the civil rights movement in earnest in 1956, when Alabama banned the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from working within the state. In response, Shuttlesworth and another activist, Ed Gardner, founded the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights to continue the NAACP's efforts in Alabama.
In 1957, he was one of the co-founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was to play a huge role in some of the biggest efforts of the movement, including the 1963 Birmingham campaign. He participated in the lunch counter sit-ins of 1960 and the Freedom Rides of 1961.
After the civil rights movement, he continued to help the disadvantaged, including through a foundation to help poor people buy homes. In 1966, he became pastor of the Greater New Light Baptist Church in Cincinnati, where he remained until 2006, when he left to have surgery for a brain tumor.
Shuttlesworth Was on Civil Rights Movement's Front Lines
Shuttlesworth endured a tremendous amount for the cause of civil rights. He survived a bombing in 1956, when 16 sticks of dynamite exploded outside his bedroom, and he led a rally the very next day. He survived an assault in 1957, when a mob attacked him for trying to enroll his children in a segregated school. He survived chest injuries in 1963 when the Birmingham police tried to beat back protesters with fire hoses.
After the dynamite attack, a police officer and Ku Klux Klan member warned Shuttlesworth, If I were you, I'd get out of this town as quick as I could. Shuttlesworth's response was simply, I wasn't saved to run.
He was prepared to give his life for the cause. In an interview a few years ago, he said he had not expected to live past age 40.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- who called Shuttlesworth one of the nation's most courageous freedom fighters in his 1963 book, Why We Can't Wait -- made the same prediction about himself, and it tragically came true. But Shuttlesworth lived more than two times as long: long enough to see so much of what he fought for achieved.
They were trying to blow me into heaven, but God wanted me on Earth, he said.