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Civil rights leader the Rev. Shuttlesworth dies

JAY REEVES

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 5 2011 12:42 p.m. MDT

He also gained attention in Diane McWhorter's book "Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution," which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2002.

Shuttlesworth was born March 18, 1922, near Montgomery and grew up in Birmingham.

As a child, he knew he would either be a minister or a doctor and by 1943, he decided to enter the ministry. He began taking theological courses at night while working as a truck driver and cement worker during the day. He was licensed to preach in 1944 and ordained in 1948.

It was 1954 when King, then a pastor in Montgomery, came to Birmingham to give a speech and asked to stop by Bethel Baptist and meet Shuttlesworth. Shuttlesworth already knew the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who became a key aide to King, as they both attended Alabama State College, later known as Selma University.

Meanwhile, in Montgomery, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus in late 1955, prompting the boycott led by King that gave new life to the civil rights movement.

In January 1956, King's Montgomery home was bombed while he attended a rally. Eleven months later, on Christmas night 1956, 16 sticks of dynamite were detonated outside Shuttlesworth's bedroom as he slept at the Bethel Baptist parsonage. No one was injured in either bombing, although shards of glass and wood pierced Shuttleworth's coat and hat, which were hanging on a hook.

The next day, Shuttlesworth led 250 people in a protest of segregation on buses in Birmingham.

In 1957, he was beaten by a mob when he tried to enroll two of his children in an all-white school in Birmingham.

In Cincinnati, Shuttlesworth left Revelation Baptist Church and became pastor of the Greater New Light Baptist Church in 1966. He also founded a foundation to help low-income people make down payments on homes.

In 2004, he was president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for about three months. The troubled organization's board had suspended Shuttlesworth without giving a reason after he tried to fire a longtime official. He resigned, saying board members tried to micromanage the organization.

He was 84 when he retired as the pastor of Greater New Light in 2006. "The best thing we can do is be a servant of God," he said in his final sermon. "It does good to stand up and serve others."

Associated Press writers Errin Haines in Atlanta, Kendal Weaver in Montgomery, Ala., and Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

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