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MLK50: Remembering Cole and Walker

(Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

Fifty years to the day (Feb. 1) that City of Memphis sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker were crushed to death inside of their trucks’ garbage barrel, the tragic accident was recounted near where it happened at Colonial Rd. and Verne.

Cole and Walker were seeking shelter from the rain when a compacting motor shorted. The historical marker near the site notes that the accident sparked the Sanitation Strike.

A wreath-laying ceremony marked the commemoration, which drew 100-plus people, including members of Local 1733 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the labor union that represents sanitation workers.

Keith Johnson, a union representative, told the crowd that sanitation workers still are being treated in a manner similar to 50 years ago.

Mayor Jim Strickland made reference to Thursday’s commemoration in his weekly update, which was distributed on Friday.

 “On my way into City Hall Thursday morning, I stopped by the historical marker that stands at Colonial and Sea Isle roads honoring Echol Cole and Robert Walker, the two sanitation workers crushed to death in the back of a garbage truck 50 years ago.

“The MLK50 season in our city will be meaningful, full of important events and reminders. But through it all, let us always remember what happened Feb. 1, 1968: the deaths of Mr. Cole and Mr. Walker. May we never forget them, and may we always appreciate and respect the dignity of our solid waste employees.”


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