Marking the fourth decade after Dr. King's assassination, the Memphis Department of Solid Waste Management continues to employ 30 workers who were present during the protests of '68. Elmore Nickelberry, who's been working for the department for 54 years, tells his story.
"This is where they threw gas on us," the 76-year-old points out as the truck passes the Clayborn Temple, where Martin Luther King Jr. led a thousand mostly African-American striking sanitation workers on a march.
"I got hurt in the arm, Mace thrown on me," Nickelberry remembers, rumbling down Main.
"We sang 'We Shall Overcome,' " he adds softly.
The Clayborn Temple march that night ended not with the victory of a sanitation union, but with 280 arrests, 60 injured men and 4,000 National Guardsmen deployed to impose martial law. A week later, King was dead — shot several blocks away on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
Today, after four decades, Memphis' Department of Solid Waste Management still employs about 30 people from the '68 era, and Nickelberry is the oldest. It is in him, and in the sanitation department as a whole, that one clearly sees a legacy of the '60s and the civil rights movement.