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Civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth dies at 89

Visionary one of the four founding fathers of SCLC

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, an elder statesman of the civil rights movement, died Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala., The New York Times reported. He was 89.

From the Times:

It was in Birmingham in the spring of 1963 that Mr. Shuttlesworth, an important ally of Dr. King, organized two tumultuous weeks of daily demonstrations by black children, students, clergymen and adults against a rigidly segregated society.

In 1957, Shuttlesworth was, along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the four founding ministers of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

“[Shuttlesworth] was Martin Luther King’s most effective and insistent foil: blunt where King was soothing, driven where King was leisurely, and most important, confrontational where King was conciliatory — meaning, critically, that he was more upsetting than King in the eyes of the white public," Diane McWhorter, the author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about Birmingham, told the Times. 

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, told NPR that Shuttlesworth was the heart and soul of the Birmingham movement.

"Fred Shuttlesworth had the vision, the determination never to give up, never to give in," Lewis said. "He led an unbelievable children's crusade. It was the children who faced dogs, fire hoses, police billy clubs that moved and shook the nation."

The Associated Press reports that Shuttlesworth was born on March 18, 1922, near Montgomery, Alabama, but he grew up in Birmingham. He entered the ministry in 1943, taking theological courses at night while working as a truck driver and cement worker during the day.

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Alabama State University President William Harris issued a statement marking Shuttlesworth's death. Shuttlesworth received a degree from ASU in the early 1950s.

"Fred Shuttlesworth was personally bombed, brutally beaten, jailed, harassed and had his property seized, yet he persevered," Harris said. "His alma mater, Alabama State University, deeply mourns his loss while celebrating the significant contributions to freedom, equality and justice of this outstanding alumnus."

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth stands with a statue of himself in front of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on April 4, 2007.

“Fred Shuttlesworth had the vision, the determination never to give up, never to give in.”

— U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia