Children of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth speak with FOX19 about their - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Children of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth speak with FOX19 about their father's legacy

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The children of civil rights icon Fred Shuttlesworth speak out about their father's legacy.

The reverend died on Wednesday, Oct. 5th. He was 89 years old.

On Friday afternoon, Fox19's Kimberly Holmes Wiggins sat down with two of the Reverend's children: his eldest daughter, Patricia Shuttlesworth Massengill, and his only son, Fred Shuttlesworth, Jr., in the church that their father designed.

Shuttlesworth often made his four children stay home while he fought for civil rights.

"He had to focus on everybody's children so he couldn't have all four of his out there," said Shuttlesworth Massengill.

He told his children how to love and respect everyone, no matter how they treated you, and how to look out for their siblings.

"He insisted since he had the four of us, when somebody offered you something, if they didn't have enough for all for of you, you can't accept it," said Shuttlesworth Massengill.  

When asked if it was ever tough to follow through on that rule, Shuttlesworth Massengill said, "It was! Especially when people offer you something you love-- a piece of candy-- and you can't accept it! Four pieces. I can't take it?? But we had to do it!"

The four Shuttlesworth children said they grew up sheltered and sometimes frightened, but said that they never questioned their father's struggle.

"When we were in the south, we led a very sheltered life," said Shuttlesworth Massengill. "Our house had to be guarded because of the bombs and the Ku Klux Klan. We weren't permitted to go outside very much. We could go to church, go to school, and that's it. My very first date, I had to be accompanied by my sister. You can tell how embarrassing that was for her and for me."

The four of them also learned how to live in a world full of hate. Shuttlesworth, Jr. recalls an encounter with the police when he was young.

"They had their guns out. {They yelled,"What's your name?" Another guy said, 'This is not a good time to be a Shuttlesworth,'" said Shuttlesworth, Jr. "I said, "Fred Smith," and went on about my business."

Shuttlesworth Massengill said she was taught non-violence, but learned to always have a back-up plan.

"Being young, we didn't have any weapons of any kind, but you know, I did manage to keep a fork in my purse," she said. "{Her father} didn't know that, and I never told him, but I'd never let anyone hurt my dad."

That's a promise she kept until her father's last days.

She and her siblings were there by his bedside in his hospital room in Birmingham when he passed. They spent his last hours together, praying, talking, and singing to him just like they did when they were children.

"Daddy related everything to scriptures, but he was always telling corny jokes; family jokes," said Shuttlesworth Massengill. "On our way home. It was very very solemn, and very quiet. It's devastating to lose your father. And you're there and you're going through things, and you see him in life one minute and you see him in death the next minute, it was just hard. you know, nothing but tears, and then all of sudden we started talking about some of the things he did and that lightened the load."

Shuttlesworth was bombed, beaten and repeatedly arrested in the fight for civil rights. The former truck driver studied religion at night and became pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1953. Soon after he became an outspoken leader in the fight for racial equality. Martin Luther King, Jr. called Shuttlesworth "one of the nation's most courageous freedom fighters" in his 1963 book, "Why We Can't Wait."

Rev. Shuttlesworth survived a 1956 bombing, an assault during a 1957 demonstration and countless arrests. He left Alabama in 1961, and moved to Cincinnati to become pastor of Revelation Baptist Church. He later founded the Greater Light Baptist Church in Avondale where he continued to work against racism.

His children said they haven't had a chance to see all of the messages from politicians and community leaders, including one from President Obama, but said that they know their father would appreciate all of the love and support.

"He would have said, 'Oh that's nice,' because like I told you, he was real modest," said Shuttlesworth Massengill.

There will be three days of services in Alabama. The events planned will give an opportunity for the public, as well as his colleagues and friends, to say good-bye..

The events will begin Saturday, October 22 with a memorial service at his beloved Bethel Baptist Church in the Collegeville community where he pastored from 1953 to 1961. There he will lie in state for the public to pay its respects.

On Sunday, he will lie in state at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute where the public will be invited to bid farewell. Later that day, a pastoral remembrance will take place at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church across the street from the Civil Rights Institute.

On Monday, October 24, a legacy memorial service will be held at Faith Chapel Christian Center in Birmingham. Internment will follow.

Additional details and specific times of these events will be announced at a later time.

 

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