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Church Remembers Christmas Bombing 50 Years Ago

In a new building and with the mayor and hometown congressman on hand, Bethel Baptist Church commemorated the 50th anniversary of the racist bombing that targeted the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth as he led
( [email protected] ) Dec 20, 2006 04:24 PM EST

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - In a new building and with the mayor and hometown congressman on hand, Bethel Baptist Church commemorated the 50th anniversary of the racist bombing that targeted the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth as he led the fight against the city's segregation laws.

No one was injured in the bombing of the black church on Christmas Day 1956. And Shuttlesworth told the anniversary crowd Sunday that the bombings, threats and beatings he received were just part of his job.

"I just had the unmitigated gall to challenge things," Shuttlesworth, 82, said.

Mayor Bernard Kincaid and U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, were among dozens of guests on hand for the commemoration at the church's new building just down the street from the original structure.

Shuttlesworth, who retired earlier this year as pastor of a church in Cincinnati, led Bethel Baptist from 1953 through 1961, during which his church was bombed three times, his home dynamited and he was beaten when he tried to enroll his children in all-white Phillips High School.

On Dec. 25, 1956, dynamite was placed between the church and Shuttlesworth's onsite home. He took the pulpit for a few minutes before the bomb went off. While no one was injured, the home was badly damaged.

J.B. Stoner, an outspoken white supremacist, was indicted in the church bombing in 1977 and eventually served 3 1/2 years in prison before he was paroled.

Bethel Baptist rebuilt the home, stationed guards and continued with its religious work.

© 2006 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.