Congressmen tour Mason Temple, NCRM to honor MLK

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Dozens of members of Congress visited Mason Temple and National Civil Rights Museum on Friday.

The event at the Mason Temple not only honored the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the sanitation workers' strike.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) were in town for the occasion.

The lawmakers visited Mason Temple, where King delivered his last sermon, and the Lorraine Motel, where he was assassinated the day after the speech.

There was a heavy police presence as congressmen from across the country came to Mason Temple for the "I am a Man: The Road to Jericho" event.

But it was a sanitation worker who stole the show.

Elmore Nickleberry, the city's longest-serving sanitation worker at 64 years, expressed outrage over the amount current sanitation workers are paid more than 50 years after he and others went on strike to demand, among other things, a pay increase.

City of Memphis representatives responded to Nickleberry with the following statement:

"The Strickland administration has consistently made significant investments in Solid Waste employee compensation and benefits. "

City officials also cited increases in wages, professional development, and retirement benefits. Nickleberry and others were also each given a tax-free $70,000 last year.

Pastor Kenneth Whalum also attended the event. He posted videos on Facebook, since media was not allowed inside.

Whalum said the actions of the 1968 striking sanitation workers are a call for everyone in Memphis to work together.

"Nickleberry and all those men who gave their blood, sweat, and tears to make Memphis a better place are challenging Memphis to be better, and the 50th anniversary is going to be the time it happens, I guarantee it," Whalum said.

"We still need to fight," Nickleberry said. "Keep fighting."

After the event ended, many of the participants went down the road to the National Civil Rights Museum for a wreath-laying ceremony to honor the life of Dr. King.

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