Fred Shuttlesworth and Pieces and Pictures of Greatness

Fred Shuttlesworth was a pastor, leader, and man of faith.  Rev. Shuttlesworth died yesterday.  Of course he was not the only great person who died in our country.  I’m sure many people are moved by the loss of Steve Jobs.  I’m sure many more people have been moved by the countless other losses and deaths from yesterday to today which most of us will never blog about.  Still, I thought of this particular notable individual this morning as we discussed in class two streams of the Christian faith.

We’re reading and talking about Richard Foster’s Streams of Living Water, and today’s topics were the Charismatic stream and the Social Justice stream.  I won’t presume to know which stream (or tradition) Rev. Shuttlesworth felt most comfortable in, but he was on my mind as we talked about justice and how we pursue it because of the renewing gifts which God gives.

After class, I paged through A Testament of Hope and read how Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. described some of Rev. Shuttlesworth’s work.  They joined together to launch the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.  While what I’ve copied below is only a piece of a picture of this man’s life, it is a reminder that his life (and ours) is made of these kinds of pieces and pictures.  In an interview Dr. King said,

Our major campaigns have been conducted only in cities where a request for our help comes from one of these affiliate organizations, and only when we feel that intolerable conditions in that community might be ameliorated with our help.  I will give you an example.  In Birmingham, one of our affiliate organizations is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, which was organized by the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, a most energetic and indomitable man.  It was he who set out to end Birmingham’s racism, challenging the terrorist reign of Bull Connor.  SCLC watched admiringly as the small Shuttlesworth-led organization fought in the Birmingham courts and with boycotts.  Shuttlesworth was jailed several times, his home and church were bombed, and still he did not back down.  His defiance of Birmingham’s racism inspired and encouraged Negroes throughout the South.  Then, at a May 1962 board meeting of the SCLC in Chattanooga, the first discussions began that later led to our joining Shuttlesworth’s organization in a massive direct-action campaign to attack Birmingham’s segregation.

In addition to the above picture, Charles Cobb, Jr. at The Root has a good tribute to Rev. Shuttlesworth, which you can read by clicking here.  Cobb says of Fred Shuttlesworth that “His life framed a struggle that changed the nation and teaches us the power of commitment.”  I agree with that.  And last, look at this quick video with Rev. Shuttlesworth talking about how we ought to live.