Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Tragic Accident Sparks Sanitation Strike

Marker ID: THC 4E 173
Location: 1370 Colonial Rd, Memphis, TN
County: Shelby
Coordinates: N 35° 5.591    W 089° 54.194
  35.09318333    -89.90323333
Style: Free Standing **
Waymark: None


Tragic Accident Sparks Sanitation Strike

(Side 1)
On February 1, 1968, sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker took shelter from the rain inside their truck's garbage barrel because they had no raincoats. One block south of here, at the corner of Colonial and Verne, the compacting motor shorted, and the two men were crushed to death. On the same day, due to weather, 22 black sewer workers were sent home without pay while their white supervisors were retained for the day with pay.

(Side 2)
On February 12, more than 1100 black sanitation workers began a strike for job safety, better wages and benefits, and union recognition. The deaths of Cole and Walker were key factors contributing to the sanitation workers' strike. Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave three separate speeches in support of the strikers and their cause, the last coming on April 3. The following day, Dr. King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel.

Tennessee Historical Commission.