Some days we go along in life without giving much thought to the men and women who made it possible for us to be who we have become in life, but here was the
President of the United States being among the first to remember Rev. Shuttlesworth. The message reminded us of the circumstances under which the President just a few years ago considered it an honor to push the wheelchair of Rev. Shuttlesworth across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge.
ANOTHER GIANT HAS FALLEN
By Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq.
Trice-Edney Wire Service – As I was reading my usual messages from the White House, I learned of the death of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a giant of a man who worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy. The message today was a message of condolence on the passing of this giant. Some days we go along in life without giving much thought to the men and women who made it possible for us to be who we have become in life, but here was the President of the United States being among the first to remember Rev. Shuttlesworth. The message reminded us of the circumstances under which the President just a few years ago considered it an honor to push the wheelchair of Rev. Shuttlesworth across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge. That was the scene of events leading to many changes in the laws of our country that would begin to form a more perfect union.
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Rev. Shuttlesworth where he was speaking for a banquet in my city. That evening after he’d delivered a masterful message, some friends and I were able to have a great conversation with him about some of his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. I had known he was referred to as one of the “Big Three” of the Civil Rights Movement, with Dr. King and Rev. Abernathy. While I had heard about Rev. Shuttlesworth I had not known about all the courageous stands he took nor about the beatings he had taken, the bombings he had survived and all the dangerous risks he took for our freedom and equality. After such an interesting conversation, from that night onward, Rev. Shuttlesworth took on greater meaning for me. I now knew him personally. After that evening, I spoke with him a few times by telephone, and I began to read everything I could about this man who had done so much to create a better life for us.
In addition to being a very courageous man, he had a sense of humor, as displayed in his statement when he was speaking of all the times he had been beaten, bombed or attacked in numerous ways. He said, “They were trying to blow me into heaven; but God wanted me on earth”. His humorous side also came across when he was severely beaten by a white mob, and the doctors who treated him wondered how he could have survived that beating with no broken bones or concussions. He responded with, “The Lord knew I live in a hard town, so he gave me a hard head”.
He was a founder, along with Dr. King, Rev. Abernathy and Bayard Rustin, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. When the NAACP was outlawed in Alabama where he lived, he didn’t skip a beat. He organized the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, and through that organization, he is credited with significantly shaping the national agenda over the next years. His life was spent working for equal rights for African Americans. Before the Civil Rights Movement as we came to know it, became famous, Rev. Shuttlesworth was urging his church members to register and vote. He was working to gain the right for his children to attend better schools than those available to them. He was pressing for Birmingham where he lived to hire more Black police officers prior to his going on to support Dr. King in the Montgomery bus boycott. Another giant has fallen, and because he lived, you and I can climb higher.