Former Sanitation Worker, Civil Rights Icon Alvin Turner Dies at Age 83

MEMPHIS, Tenn (localmemphis.com) - He was one of 1,300 sanitation workers in Memphis who fought a long fight in 1968 for higher wages and better working conditions. 

 

Alvin Turner died Monday after a long battle with cancer.  Turner had major accomplishments in his 83 years of living.  He was honored with a key to the City of Jackson, Tennessee and was also honored by the U.S. Department of Labor. 

 

Local 24 caught up with one of Turner's best friend, Baxter Leach.  In Leach's home, the two former sanitation workers are seen pictured together while being recognized by President Barack Obama in 2011. 

 

"He's like a brother to me, Leach explained.  "How we got close Jesse Jackson had us come to Chicago to Rainbow push and we stayed there almost a week," 

 

Leach was devastated when he heard the news that his friend passed. 

 

"They were like your brother got cancer, it's like somebody took a bullet and shot me through the head," Leach said. 

 

Leach and Turner marched together in the Sanitation Strike of 1968, a two-month long strike led by black sanitation workers in Memphis demanding better pay and working conditions. 

 

"It's a blessing when you have a living legacy and you can talk to him, actually not reading about history but actually being a part of history," said Ebonee Ridley, Baxter Leach's granddaughter. 

 

Local 24 went to Ms. Girlee's Soul Food restaurant Friday.  It is owned by the Leach family.  It was also one of Turner's favorite restaurants.  His meal of choice, buffalo fish, spaghetti, cabbage, and yams. 

 

"Once he started getting sick we would just fix him something to eat and my grandfather would take it over to him to make sure that he do eat something," Ridley said. "He will definitely missed."

 

Turner remained active in the labor movement after the strike and also helped other workers in Memphis organize their own union. 


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