Civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth buried in Birmingham

(AP, TBD) - As he fought segregation in his native Alabama, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth endured bombs, beatings and the constant threat of death in one of the most violent cities of the segregated South.

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(Photo: Associated Press)

At the newly dedicated MLK memorial in Washington visitors recalled Shuttleworth's impact.

“I think he was a great man. He fought against injustices and civil rights for all people,” said D.C. resident Francine Copeland.

“I remember hearing him speak. He was such an eloquent speaker and was so inspirational,” said Rocky Twyman of Maryland.

On Monday, Birmingham said farewell to the Baptist preacher at his funeral, honoring him as a liberator who freed the community and the country from generations of discrimination.

Shuttlesworth was "one of the founding fathers of the New America," who put his life on the line to end segregation and racial discrimination, said Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.

"Fear, real fear, smothered the air, not just throughout Birmingham but throughout the American South," said Lewis, who met Shuttlesworth in 1961 during the Freedom Rides. "Birmingham is different today. Alabama is different today. America is different today, because this man passed our way."

Lewis was joined by pastors and other foot soldiers from the civil rights era who remembered Shuttlesworth as an architect of the movement, a man whose courage and persistence persuaded the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Birmingham in 1963 to take part in historic protests that drew the eyes of the nation.

That visit helped paved the way for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and for King to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The tributes described a state long synonymous with hate that was forever changed by Shuttlesworth and his fellow clergymen.

“That song of hope that we dedicated last week was made possible, in part, by the extraordinary, vision, courage and leadership of reverend Fred Shuttlesworth,” Martin Luther King, III, Dr. King’s son, said.

He brought international attention to the brutality of legalized discrimination in the South. And for decades after the 1963 campaign, Shuttlesworth continued to fight racial injustice in Birmingham, even after moving to Cincinnati.

Joining the crowd of mourners were members of King's family, along with the Revs. Joseph Lowery, Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson, and the widow of the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy.

Shuttlesworth died Oct. 5 at age 89.

Republican Gov. Robert Bentley spoke frankly to the mostly black audience of mourners about his own experiences with segregation. He grew up on the other side of Jim Crow as a young white man in Shelby County and later as a student at the University of Alabama.

Before men like Shuttlesworth agitated for an end to segregation, the governor said, he never gave much thought to the culture of racial discrimination that hung over the state. He thanked Shuttlesworth for undoing what he called "the teachings of a misdirected society."

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