Born in New Orleans to Horace and Lice Shropshire, Courtney spent his early adulthood in Jackson, Mississippi where he studied at Mississippi A&M, Millsaps College, and Ward's Business College. After moving to Franklin, Tennessee, to avoid an outbreak of yellow fever, he took a job as an assistant for a local doctor and subsequently enrolled in the medical school of the University of Tennessee in Nashville.
After graduating in 1900, Shropshire began to practice in several small towns. He established himself in Birmingham in 1903. Though he went on to complete post-graduate studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic, Shropshire served as the United States Public Health Service representative for Birmingham and was president of the Jefferson County Medical Society. He had an office on the third floor of the First National Bank Building in 1905.
While attending a meeting of the newly-organized Rotary club in 1917, Shropshire and several other Rotarians determined that the club was too focused on increasing the business of its members. They surrendered their Rotary charter and formed an independent service club, holding their first meeting on March 17, 1917, with 37 charter members. They named the group the "Civitan Club." Shropshire was elected president for two successive terms as the club grew to 200 members. He envisioned an international organization of clubs, but the nation's focus on World War I prevented the group from expanding far beyond Birmingham.
By 1920 businessmen in other cities were asking to form clubs and the International Association of Civitan Clubs (now Civitan International) was established. Shropshire was elected as the first international president for two successive one-year terms. He remains the only individual to serve two terms as international president.
After his terms ended, Shropshire continued to actively promote Civitan. He was a frequent speaker at Civitan's international conventions, and he visited clubs across the country until his death in 1965. For his civic efforts, Shropshire was given the Key to the City of Birmingham in 1957 as well as keys to the cities of New Orleans, San Diego, Memphis and Dallas. Shropshire is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.
- Leonhart, James Chancellor (1962) The Fabulous Octogenarian: Courtney W. Shropshire M. C., Founder and First President of Civitan International. Baltimore, Maryland: Redwood House
- Armbrester, Margaret E. (1992) The Civitan Story. Birmingham: Ebsco Media
- Courtney William Shropshire at Findagrave.com