By FOX's Tonya J. Powers


It's been 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous Mountaintop Speech at Mason Temple on April 3, 1968.

There are some upgrades, like spotlights and a better sound system, but the light still pours in from the side of the sanctuary in the afternoon.

It's still a working church, but there's no mistaking the historic role the building played in our nation's history. It remains an important destination for those who trace the last steps of Dr. King, and seek to understand the movement for equality and civil rights. 

Sitting in the balcony pew, where I'm writing this, I can close my eyes and listen to his words, which are played on a video loop during the wait for events to start. You feel the rough red material of the cushions and the wooden backs of the seats and wonder how many people have sat in this spot, listening to words by men of faith. I can picture the men and women, sitting in the audience, fan in hand, singing along with the gospel songs.

In Memphis, the words "sanitation workers" are synonymous with "civil rights". The names Echol Cole and Robert Walker aren't just sometimes-remembered historical answers. They are the men who lost their lives on a rainy day in February 1, 1968 in the back of a dirty garbage truck in Memphis. It was their deaths that brought attention to the plight of the sanitation workers and the conditions they were forced to work under. It got the attention of Dr. King, and is what ultimately brought him here where he would shine a light on the injustice. 

This week, Mason Temple has been the site of the Mountaintop Conference, complete with panelists and topics of discussion bring Dr. King's legacy into today and how it is relevant to the happenings in the U.S. today.


Thousands of people are coming to the National Civil Rights Museum this week to be near the place where Dr. King spent his last hours. Back in 1968, it was simply known as the Lorraine Motel.

Outside the museum just feet from the balcony where Dr. King was shot, I spoke to people who have traveled from St. Louis, Chicago, and as far away as California. Many said that balcony and Room 306 were the things they most wanted to see inside the museum.

Memphis Pastor Marvin Mims told me how Dr. King's legacy of activism on behalf of others still inspires him and many others today.


At the corner of Colonial and Sea Isle Streets in Memphis stands historical marker number 4E 173. The silver rectangle explains that this is the site where - one block south - Echol Cole and Robert Walker were killed. They were black sanitation workers who - on a rainy February 1, 1968 - took shelter in the back of their garbage truck because they weren't allowed to sit in the front. When the truck's compacting motor shorted, the men were crushed to death.

The story was overshadowed by another big story out of Memphis that happened that day - the birth of the only child of Elvis Presley.

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