BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — When a little-known black Baptist preacher named Martin Luther King took the helm of the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott in 1955, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was already in Birmingham trying to start a movement, but nobody was paying attention.

He was from a small church. His credentials and pedigree made it easy for local whites to dismiss him as a radical. Until King came to Birmingham, Shuttlesworth couldn’t get the national press to recognize his city as the embodiment of the segregated South’s horrors.

He was just another black preacher getting beat up, said Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor, congressman and United Nations ambassador who worked alongside King and Shuttlesworth in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. All three helped establish the organization in 1957.

Shuttlesworth “wanted the spotlight very much, but there wasn’t but one Martin Luther King,” Young said.

King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and went on to become the icon of the civil rights movement. Shuttlesworth, who was overshadowed in life by his comrade, was again eclipsed by King in death. Though he died nearly three weeks ago, Shuttlesworth is only now being buried.

The reason for the delay: the dedication of the King Memorial, sending most of Shuttlesworth’s civil rights colleagues to Washington last weekend. Had they not been there, they likely would have been in Birmingham remembering Shuttlesworth.

“His friends and Martin’s friends were the same,” Young said. “But you don’t have two memorials at the same time if you want your friends to come.” Shuttlesworth’s funeral will be today.

On Sunday, there was a pastoral remembrance at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church, where four black girls were killed Sept. 15, 1963, in a bombing before Sunday services.

The first black U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, called Shuttlesworth a warrior for justice and advocate for peace.

Holder used the occasion to point out Alabama’s strict new immigration law. He said too many people in Alabama “are willing to turn their backs on our immigrant past,” and he would not let that happen. The Obama administration is suing the state to block the law.

There was also a candlelight vigil for Shuttlesworth across the street in Kelly Ingram Park, made famous in 1963 when news footage of policemen and firemen unleashing dogs and blasting water on civil rights marchers was broadcast to a shocked global audience.

Long before the television cameras arrived, Shuttlesworth was there, organizing many such nonviolent protests.

He survived a Christmas 1956 bombing that destroyed his home, an assault during a 1957 protest, chest injuries when Birmingham authorities turned the hoses on demonstrators in 1963 and countless arrests.

He moved to Ohio to pastor a church in the early 1960s, but returned frequently to Alabama for key protests. He came back to live in the Birmingham area after he retired a few years ago.

“He was able to see how the civil rights struggle kept reinventing itself in different forms,” said Diane McWhorter, author of the book “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.”

McWhorter said she never got the sense that Shuttlesworth was bitter about King shaping the narrative of the movement, and added that he never badmouthed King to her.

“He had a huge ego … but he never said anything like, ‘Oh, I should’ve been the leader of the movement,’ ” she said. “He kind of recognized that he couldn’t have done what King did. But he was just such a key ingredient that it couldn’t have happened without him, either.”

In his 1963 book “Why We Can’t Wait,” King himself called Shuttlesworth “one of the nation’s most courageous freedom fighters.”

After Shuttlesworth’s death Oct. 5, Alabama lowered its state flags to half-staff.