It’s been 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr.’s life came to a violent end.  On the anniversary of his death Wednesday, thousands gathered in Memphis and other cities across the country to honor his legacy. This includes the Tampa Bay area where King made a lasting impact.  

Abdul Ali says the civil rights leader served as an inspiration for his father, Joseph Savage, a St. Petersburg man who fought for sanitation workers rights in 1968, the year Dr. King was shot dead outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

“The garbage workers were concerned about pay,” Ali told News Channel 8.  

Ali said his father held two marches, one in 1966 and another in 1968, a month after Dr. King’s assassination.  

“The workers decided a move to block trucks from going out, okay, which lead to the firing of the workers and my father, who was placed in jail,” said Ali. “Forty marches, my father lead over 211 workers.”

Their outcry attracted a number of civil rights leaders, including Dr. King’s brother A.D. King.  Ali said his father’s strike helped revolutionize the city.

“When white citizens and black citizens came together jointly and begin to work on not only good race relationships but other areas like housing, government and education, etc. That came about because of the strike,” said Ali.

Savage got his job back and retired in 1988 after 30 years with the sanitation department.  He received several honors from the city in the meantime.  

The Joseph E. Savage Sanitation Complex was dedicated in 2006, five years after his death.

*Photos provided by the Tampa Bay Times*