Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama pushes civil rights activist Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth during a march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 1965 ‘Bloody Sunday’ Voting Rights, March 4, 2007 in Selma, Alabama
MSNBC: The Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, who was bombed, beaten and repeatedly arrested in the fight for civil rights and hailed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for his courage and energy, has died. He was 89.
Princeton Baptist Medical Center spokeswoman Jennifer Dodd confirmed he died at the Birmingham hospital Wednesday morning.
Shuttlesworth, a former truck driver who studied religion at night, became pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1953 and soon was an outspoken leader in the fight for racial equality.
In his 1963 book “Why We Can’t Wait,” King called Shuttlesworth “one of the nation’s the most courageous freedom fighters … a wiry, energetic and indomitable man.”
He survived a 1956 bombing, an assault during a 1957 demonstration, chest injuries when Birmingham authorities turned fire hoses on demonstrators in 1963, and countless arrests.
“I went to jail 30 or 40 times, not for fighting or stealing or drugs,” Shuttlesworth told grade school students in 1997. “I went to jail for a good thing, trying to make a difference.”
2008: Fred Shuttlesworth watches the results of the historic presidential election from his hospital bed at St. Vincents Hospital in Birmingham. Shuttlesworth watched the returns with his wife Sephira and close friend Cathy Crenshaw.
Read more on Fred’s life here
President Barack Obama today issued a statement about the passing of the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.
“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.
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. America owes Reverend Shuttlesworth a debt of gratitude, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Sephira, and their family, friends and loved ones.”