The news that Fred Shuttlesworth died got lost in the flow when Steve Jobs died shortly thereafter. Not to take anything away from Jobs, whom I admired (I was there for his 2005 Stanford graduation speech, and it was certainly the best such I have ever heard–very thoughtful). But Shuttlesworth was the more important, and the more valiant, figure. I’ve read everything I can find on Shuttlesworth, who was one of the great heroes of the civil rights movement. This piece by Diane McWhorter does him justice. (Her book on Birmingham, Alabama, Carry Me Home, is one of my favorites of the many fine books on the movement.) Shuttlesworth is the basis of one of my main characters in the novel I intend to publish next year, Birmingham.
One thing McWhorter doesn’t mention is that Shuttlesworth was a preacher who took the Bible as God’s literal word. He never bought into liberal theology the way King did, nor was he the kind of preacher who used the pulpit for his own purposes and quoted the Bible when it suited his program. The Bible’s vision of justice was his vision, and he took it straight.