Posted at 01:45 PM ET, 10/05/2011

Fred Shuttlesworth dies: ‘Everyone expected me to get killed more than anyone else’

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, crouching at center, talks to Freedom Riders and journalists in Birmingham on May 15, 1961. (AP)
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:

Six days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery city buses must integrate, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and others challenged the law in Birmingham, Ala., by joining white passengers on a city bus on Dec. 26, 1956. (Robert Adams/AP)

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, right, is stopped before entering the whites-only waiting room at the bus terminal on March 6, 1957, in Birmingham, Ala. After being told that he was not wanted inside, Shuttlesworth replied: "It's not up to you to tell me where to go." (Robert Adams/AP)

On May 8, 1963, integration leaders tell a news conference in Birmingham, Ala., they are suspending racial demonstrations. The Rev. Martin Luther King, left, said a settlement is near. At center is the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth at at right is the Rev. Ralph Abernathy. (AP)

In April 18, 1963, Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr. (left), integration leader the Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Mrs. Ralph D. Abernathy leave Birmingham jail after visiting with King and Abernathy. (AP)

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Tags:  National, Fred A. Shuttlesworth, Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Movement

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