The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was Birmingham's leading civil rights activist at the time of the Freedom Rides. A co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he welcomed the Freedom Riders who showed up on his doorstep on May 14, 1961, bleeding and battered after the riot at the Trailways bus terminal and the Anniston bombing.
He offered the group shelter at the parsonage while seeking medical care for the badly injured Charles Person and Jim Peck.
That evening, the Rev. Shuttlesworth spoke at a mass meeting at Bethel Baptist Church. "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to Alabama, and it has been good for the nation," he insisted. "No matter how many times they beat us up, segregation has still got to go."
The Rev. Shuttlesworth planned to join the Freedom Riders on their May 20 ride to Montgomery but was arrested at the Birmingham Greyhound bus terminal on the charge of refusing to obey a police officer. He later traveled to Montgomery along with other movement leaders to support the Riders and was present during the siege and firebombing of First Baptist Church. The Rev. Shuttlesworth was arrested while escorting William Sloane Coffin and other members of the Connecticut Freedom Ride to the Montgomery Greyhound bus terminal.
In 1961, the Rev. Shuttlesworth moved to Cincinnati to be pastor of Revelation Baptist Church. However, he remained active in the Deep South civil rights struggle, including the Birmingham desegregation campaign of 1963.
He returned to Birmingham after his retirement in 2007. In 2008, Birmingham's airport officially changed its name to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.