Local leaders remember Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth

Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth survived bombings, beatings and repeated arrests in the fight for civil rights, but on Wednesday morning at 10:28, Shuttlesworth died in a Birmingham hospital.

The former truck driver who studied religion at night became a pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1953, and soon was an outspoken leader in the fight for racial equality.

In 1961, Shuttlesworth moved to Cincinnati where he was a pastor for 47 years. He moved back to Birmingham three and a half years ago after suffering a mild stroke. The once segregated city honored Shuttlesworth with a four-day tribute, and named its airport after him.

"A life from the moment he was born in 1922 to the day he died which is today," said Rev. Damon Lynch, Jr. a colleague and civil rights activist. "He filled that dash."

It was one filled with 89 years of purpose.

"These are my colleagues," said Rev. Lynch. "We marched together."

Rev. Lynch fought alongside Rev. Shuttlesworth.

"He had been baptized by fire in Alabama-- dogs and water hoses and beatings," said Rev. Shuttlesworth. "When he came to Cincinnati he was looking for greener pastures."

Rev. Shuttlesworth found a place to raise his children and his church in Cincinnati.

"I have the advantage of being in the family," said Rev. Harold Bester, pastor of New Light Baptist Church in Avondale. "He's my father-in- law, and he's been my spiritual leader since I was 15 years old. I'm now 65 years old."

Rev. Shuttlesworth founded New Light Baptist Church in 1966. He led members there for 40 years. Rev. Bester now watches over the memories of the man who directed his spiritual steps. Members of New Light Baptist Church have filled a room in the church with rows of Rev. Shuttlesworth's plaques, keys to the city and dozens of pictures and magazine articles.

Rev. Shuttlesworth delivered his last sermon in 2006.

"It was a very moving sermon," said Rev. Bester.

At a meeting on Wednesday morning, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, Council member Cecil Thomas, and Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about the man who shaped the world and the way for each of them. Holder was in town for a few hours on Wednesday for a separate event.

The Shuttlesworth children, Patricia Massengill, Ruby Bester, Fred Shuttlesworth, Jr., and Dr. Carolyn Shuttlesworth issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

"Thank you to the city of Birmingham that loved and cared for our dad. We appreciate how Birmingham has welcomed and loved him. We are especially grateful to Civic Center Nursing Home, Saint Martin in the Pines, Baptist Princeton, St. Vincent's and Trinity Hospitals. We thank anyone who has done anything and shown love and support, we are eternally grateful. We would also like to thank Drake University Hospital, Dr. Tew and Dr. Spore, Heartland of Mederia Nursing Home and Drake Rehabilitation Center, Jewish Hospital and University Hospitals in Cincinnati. We also thank all minister, friends and members of Greater New Light Baptist Church who traveled from Cincinnati to Birmingham to visit our dad. From this point, we will continue to do everything in love."

Fred Shuttlesworth, Jr. also issued a separate statement, stating: "Growing up, he was Batman; Superman. Daddy was a superhero to me. I realized everybody else felt the same way."

The Reverend's wife, Sephira Bailey Shuttlesworth released this statement, "I'm grieving in ways that I have never known before and yet I'm experiencing extraordinary joy that comes from the knowledge that he has been received unto the lord where his prophet's reward awaits."

The church will hold a memorial service after the funeral. Members are still finalizing the details.

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