SOUTH BEND – Civil rights icon Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth passed away at the age of 89, on Wednesday, but not before he left his mark on the civil rights movement. On Thursday Lawrence Giden of South Bend pulled out his autographed copy of Shuttlesworth’s book to remember his life.
"Shuttlesworth was a very strong leader mainly in Birmingham, Alabama, but he toured with Dr. King and the SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] across the South,” said Giden.
Shuttlesworth helped start the SCLC and worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Giden was lucky enough to get to meet Shuttlesworth on more than one trip with Indiana University-South Bend’s Civil Rights Heritage Center and summer freedom history classes.
Shuttlesworth even visited South Bend in January of 2002 to celebrate the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Giden was one who got to have lunch with Shuttlesworth on IUSB’s campus.
For Giden, the most memorable meeting was sitting in on Shuttlesworth's last sermon in Cincinnati in 2005. At the time Shuttlesworth's health was becoming an issue.
"His family and his church allowed him to preach one more sermon and it was that Sunday when our group went to hear him speak,” said Giden.
Giden said he remembers the sermon being very long, but he was happy to listen to such an inspiration at the pulpit.
"His voice would rise…‘And God said!’ We just sat there and ate him up,” said Giden.
As Giden looked back at a few photos of Shuttlesworth and himself, Giden said he feels lucky to of met such a great man, and hopes to carry on his mission.
“Let’s keep the historic civil rights movement going,” said Giden.
The Civil Right’s Heritage Center helps to do just that. “To connect young people with the civil rights movement of the past,” said Historian Monica Maria Tetzlaff.
Tetzlaff said she thinks the students and world are very lucky that Shuttlesworth lived so long.
“We’re so fortunate that he lived a long life. Reverend Shuttlesworth lived to the age of 89, and the students were able to meet him twice,” said Tetzlaff.
Tetzlaff said his message is still important today. “He stood up for what America stood for, equal rights, and we need people like that,” said Tetzlaff.
And more importantly we can learn from how Shuttlesworth and other civil rights leaders approached the movement.
“Noticing the passing of this unique individual, this fiery individual, I think his message really is you can be nonviolent and also a really feisty, fiery personality and get things done,” said Tetzlaff.
Shuttlesworth passed away in Birmingham, Alabama, at the age of 89.