Birmingham votes to rename airport for King aide
Published on: 07/16/08
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Directors voted Wednesday to rename the airport in this once-strictly segregated city for a civil rights leader who staged demonstrations alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Birmingham International Airport will become Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport once the Federal Aviation Administration approves the change.
The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, 86, invited King to Birmingham in 1963, and televised scenes of police dogs and fire hoses being turned on black marchers helped the rest of the nation grasp the depth of racial animosity in the Deep South.
After the state banned the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Shuttlesworth and others organized the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. The group led protests and filed suits challenging strict segregation laws in Birmingham, a steel-making city sharply divided between black and white, rich and poor.
Shuttlesworth's home was bombed twice, and he was repeatedly jailed and beaten while leading protests.
"Rev. Shuttlesworth was the leader of the movement here," said Angela Hall, a vice president at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. "He was headstrong in his belief that the city should not operate under that system of segregation. He was willing to step out front."
King went on to international fame, but Shuttlesworth was mostly unknown outside of Alabama until the publication of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Carry Me Home. Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution," by Diane McWhorter.
Mayor Larry Langford suggested renaming the airport for Shuttlesworth, who moved from Birmingham and spent most of the last 47 years leading a church in Cincinnati.
He has been in suburban Birmingham since February, when he came to the city for rehabilitation after suffering a mild stroke in September.
Before the name change is official, the authority needs a signed agreement from Shuttlesworth, who is expected to approve.