In 1962, as a 40-year-old man in Brimingham, Ala., the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth never thought he would live to see old age. A civil rights activist and close confidante of Martin Luther King Jr., Shuttlesworth was beaten, bombed and arrested for his many attempts to break the segregation barrier in the Deep South.
Defying his predictions, Shuttlesworth lived twice as long as he expected, dying at age 89 Wednesday morning.
As pastor fo the Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., from 1953 to 1961, he was at the center for the fight for racial equality and became known for putting himself in harm’s way. King had called him “a wiry, energetic and indomitable man.”
For a documentary for the Visonary Project, at age 80, Shuttlesworth remarked, “Martin, everyone expected me to get killed more than anyone else.”
According to the Associated Press, Shuttlesworth “survived a 1956 bombing, an assault during a 1957 demonstration, chest injuries when Birmingham authorities turned fire hoses on demonstrators in 1963, and countless arrests.’’
“‘I went to jail 30 or 40 times, not for fighting or stealing or drugs,” Shuttlesworth told grade-school students in 1997. “I went to jail for a good thing, trying to make a difference.”
Here is an 80-year-old Shuttlesworth reflecting on his life’s greatest achievements: