Last week much of the media’s attention (including our own) turned to the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs. But he wasn’t the only visionary who died. Civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth also died on Oct. 5, 2011. His name isn’t as recognizable as Jobs, but Shuttlesworth was the last of a generation of civil rights era heroes. While the Zen-Buddhist leaning Jobs offers us inspiration for his technological accomplishments, Shuttlesworth is an inspiration a little closer to home.
A Baptist minister, Shuttlesworth led congregations in Birmingham, Ala., and Cincinnati, Ohio. He was one of the ‘big three’ leaders of the civil rights movement along with Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy. Shuttlesworth survived two bombings, multiple beatings and was jailed several dozen times. Outspoken and combative, Shuttlesworth was often at odds with his own colleagues. But he made no apologies and willingly risked his life for his cause, vowing to “kill segregation or be killed by it.”
Thankfully he lived to the age of 89, far out-living segregation.
But perhaps the best comment about Shuttlesworth and everything he stood for comes from this sentence in the Wikipedia article:
He alienated some members of his congregation by devoting as much time as he did to the civil rights movement, at the expense of weddings, funerals, and other ordinary church functions.
May “ordinary church functions” never keep you from communicating the gospel with the boldness of church heroes like Fred Shuttlesworth.