He was reveered as one of the most relentless figures of the Civil Rights Movement having established the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) 1956. In December of that year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, was illegal.
Shuttlesworth, immediately announced that the ACMHR was going to test segregation laws in Birmingham. On Christmas night the Shuttlesworth house was blown up by sixteen sticks of Ku Klux Klan dynamite.
Shuttlesworth, who landed in the basement and whose bedroom was blown apart, and visiting Deacon Charles Robinson were unharmed. Shuttlesworth, then, led a rally the very next day.
He was beaten by police in 1957 for trying to enroll his daughter in an all white school and that same year joined with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and Bayard Rustin to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He also assisted the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) in organizing the Freedom Rides. Shuttlesworth was hospitalized in 1963 as a result of being attacked by Sheriff Bull Connor's water cannons as he led a mass nonviolent demonstration. However, Shuttlesworth continued to work to secure Birmingham's public accommodations and the desegregation of its schools.
In 1966, Shuttlesworth became the pastor of the Greater New Light Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and served as founding director of the Shuttlesworth Housing Foundation. The recipient of numerous awards, Shuttlesworth is a remarkable figure and unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement. He leaves behind three grown children.
On his passing President Obama stated, "Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth today. As one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Reverend Shuttlesworth dedicated his life to advancing the cause of justice for all Americans. He was a testament to the strength of the human spirit. And today we stand on his shoulders, and the shoulders of all those who marched and sat and lifted their voices to help perfect our union."
Continuing, the president said, "I will never forget having the opportunity several years ago to push Reverend Shuttlesworth in his wheelchair across the Edmund Pettus Bridge – a symbol of the sacrifices that he and so many others made in the name of equality."
Obama remarked that America owes Reverend Shuttlesworth a debt of gratitude.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Sephira, and their family, friends and loved ones."
Mr. Shuttlesworth was 89.
- His statue adorns Birmingham's Civil Rights Institute.
- He has streets named after him in Birmingham and Cincinnati, most noteably North Fred Shuttlesworth Circle
- He was featured in Spike Lee's 1997 documentary film, 4 Little Girls ( Lee's film about the fatal 1963 bombing Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist church).
- The life of Shuttlesworth is featured in his biography, A Fire You Can't Put Out:The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham's Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth.