Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth laid to rest in Birmingham

Burial follows 6-hour Homegoing Service

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who helped liberate the nation from the burden of racism and hate, was laid to rest Monday in Birmingham, Ala.

The burial at Oak Hill Cemetery followed a six-hour Homecoming Celebration of his life, spirit and works at Faith Chapel Christian Center. Dozens of Cincinnatians joined hundred of others for the service.

Rev. Shuttlesworth died Oct. 5 in Birmingham at the age of 89.

"Thank God for a prophet. Thank God for a friend. Thank God for a father. Thank God for a husband. Thank God for a leader who leads beyond the grave," said Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. in his eulogy to the civil rights pioneer.

Dr. Moss, Jr., knew Rev. Shuttlesworth for 50 years while preaching in Cincinnati and later at the Olivet International Baptist Church in Cleveland.

"He was 5-feet, 8.5 inches tall, and weighed 165 pounds, but he could stand on the mountain and see a more perfect union," said Dr. Moss. "He shook the foundation of racism in Birmingham and Alabama and the nation."

Both in Birmingham and Cincinnati, Shuttlesworth was known as fiery and blunt, but dedicated to the cause of using non-violence to end segregation in the United States.

Rev. Thomas Wilder, Jr., of Faith Chapel Christian Center, said in a pastoral tribute that the name Fred means peaceful ruler.

"He was peaceful, but yet he was confrontational to the evil of our society," said Rev. Wilder. "He was complex, but yet he was very clear when it came to his pursuits and his ideals."

The congregation smiled as Rev. Wilder told of Shuttlesworth's traits using the letters of his first name -- "F" for fearless, "R" for resilient, "E" for enthusiastic and "D" for determined.

"He was determined to be non-violent," Rev. Wilder said. "He was determined to be peaceful, but yet he was determined to either kill segregation or be killed trying to kill it."

In the 1950s and 1960s, Rev. Shuttlesworth was subjected to beatings, survived two bombings and by his own count was arrested 35 times.

"He had the courage to take action and to stand strong in the face of threats and violence," said Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. "He wasn't afraid to speak his mind for the cause of freedom and equality."

Fred Shuttlesworth is often viewed as one of the most important figures of the civil rights movement along with Martin Luther King in helping to pave the way to make life better for African Americans.

That's why Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole was dispatched to Birmingham with a letter from President Barack Obama, the first African American President.

"Reverend Shuttlesworth's life was a testament to the strength of the human spirit," Cole said. "His generation challenged our nation's conscience and because his leadership America is a more just and equal place."

Cincinnati City Councilmember Cecil Thomas said he would not have been named Council's President Pro-Tempore if Fred Shuttlesworth hadn't been a man of action.

Thomas read a resolution from Mayor Mark Mallory and City Councilmembers.

"He has fought the good fight, he has finished his course," Thomas said. "Well done our good and faithful servant."

Birmingham Mayor William Bell said he owes his political career to the work of Fred Shuttlesworth.

"Because of this man who instilled confidence that we could overcome, I now stand before you as Mayor of the great city of Birmingham, Alabama," Bell said. "Let us be a beacon of life for the rest of the world to know that change can come."

Cincinnatians in Birmingham for three days of tributes to Rev. Shuttlesworth said they were thrilled to be part of such an historic occasion.

"This weekend has been something that I've never, ever seen before," said Rev. H.L. Harvey of New Friendship Baptist Church. "Only Martin Luther King, Jr., had something like this."

"It's an experience I'll never forget," said Betty Baggett of Mt. Airy. "He was such an inspiration in my life and he was a great pastor. We all loved him so much."

Baggett was a member of Greater New Light Baptist Church, which Rev. Shuttlesworth founded and led for 40 years.

Asked what memories of the Shuttlesworth tributes he would take home, Thomas said just the fact that the world is extremely small.

"We have to learn to live together, to work together and to play together," he said. "That's what Rev. Shuttlesworth was about and that's the legacy I'll take back to Cincinnati."

Bond Hill resident Irma Womack said she feels a sense of loss, but also a sense of accomplishment that she was in Birmingham to honor Rev. Shuttlesworth.

"It would make him feel really proud, I think," she said.

Sephira Shuttlesworth, Fred's wife, listened to the hours of music and tributes, having been brought to the service by an ambulance after falling and injuring her arm and shoulder on Sunday.

"This is an extraordinary weekend," she said.

As things return to normal, Sephira said she would move forward in her own special way,.

"Somebody sent me a throw, a quilted throw, that has his likeness on it," she said. "I'm going to wrap myself in that throw and just spend some time with my memories because I have some wonderful memories of Fred Shuttlesworth -- different than most."

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