Rev. Oliver's Tribute To Rev. Shuttlesworth, Civil Rights Legend and Friend

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The Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth who recently passed away dedicated his life to advancing the cause of justice for Black America and was very instrumental in shaping the outcome of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Reverent Herbert C. Oliver, close friend and confidant of Rev. Shuttlesworth sat down during his time of grief to reflect on their friendship. Rev. Oliver has lived the History. He stood up to the notorious Sheriff Bull Connor in Birmingham, was arrested and jailed many times, fought Bus segregation with Rosa Parks and was a leader in the Ocean-Hill Brownsville Decentralization conflict. He met Rev. Shuttlesworth in 1959 and immediately became involved with him in the Civil Rights Struggle which continued until 1965.

Rev. Oliver speaks of the Birmingham Experience as a period of structured weekly meetings, demonstrations and his arrest from time to time. The twice bombing of Rev. Shuttlesworth home and his narrow escape from death, his being beaten with chains, brass knuckles and by angry mobs. He detailed a time of absolute fearlessness and courage, which brought the city to its knees through the economic boycott of downtown stores, as his generation challenged the cancerous forces of segregation in Birmingham, Alabama.

It was in the context of this social and political climate that Rev. Oliver told of an incident when Dr. King was being pressured by Washington Officials to end the demonstrations and was on the verge of agreeing. Rev. Shuttlesworth insisted that the demonstrations would continue even if Dr. King agreed to call them off and emphasized the tarnish it would bring to King’s name. This voice of wisdom and resolve caused Dr. King to change his mind and deny Washington’s request. Rev. Shuttlesworthrefused to accept the compromise of segregation.

This pivotal behind the scene moment in History developed when Rev. Shuttlesworth forced the hand of Dr. King in order to secure the Civil Rights change in Birmingham and the Nation of which all has come to know. His unwillingness to compromise culminated with the Historical March on Washington, Dr. King’s Noble Peace Prize and the eventual Dr. King’s National Holiday. President Obama stated in his White House release on October 5th that,” today we all stand on Reverend Shuttlesworth shoulders and the shoulders of all those who marched and sat and lifted their voices to help perfect our union”. America does owes Reverend Shuttlesworth a debt of gratitude.

As the conversation digressed to mundane topics such as the walking cane in Rev. Oliver’s car trunk which was once used by Rev. Shuttlesworth during a New York visit and the guest bedroom which he calls the Rev. Shuttlesworth room because of his frequent visits, the crispness in his voice soon gave way to the weight of this persistent struggle. The afforded glimpse into the daily lives of these two extraordinary men spoke to the strength of a lasting friendship carved from rough injustices and perpetual attempts to squash the human spirit during its quest for freedom.

Reverend Oliver last visited with Reverend Shuttlesworth and his wife Sephira in 2010. He spoke to and prayed for him half hour before his transition.  He will fly into the renamed Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth airport to attend one of the three funeral services on October 24th and no doubt, the many photos and documents of their historical journey will continue to be a source of strength.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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