City officials considering adding overlooked sanitation workers to grant list

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- City officials said Tuesday they may have missed some former sanitation workers who participated in the 1968 strike with Dr. Martin Luther King. They said they are considering adding up to eight recipients to the list of those who will receive $70,000 grants.

Elaine Taylor contacted the city on behalf of her father Kelly Lofton. She gets emotional when she talks to her dad about the past and what he has taught her through perseverance and standing up for what's right.

“He supported eight kids. He worked for the city sanitation department for 45 years,” she said.

She said he worked there from 1951 to 1995, sometimes even coming home with maggots stuck to his back.

He also told us what it was like to march with Dr. Martin Luther King in the sanitation strike in 1968 and to hear him speak.

“He said he’d been to the mountaintop," Lofton said.

Taylor, 14 at the time, was also there with him.

“What I saw in 1968, it stuck with me. I felt like I had to stand up and speak out for him because he deserves it,” she said.

She was referencing a recent announcement from city council regarding the $70,000 grants for sanitation workers who marched in the strike and are still alive. She thought her dad would be included. But, she called just to check. She was disappointed to find out he was not on the list.

“When they say he wasn’t there, I have to keep pressing on to see because I knew he was entitled,” she said.

City officials told WREG they used past honorary event registries and union membership lists to identify 14 eligible individuals. But, since they made the announcement, families have contacted City Hall to say they left out their relative.

City officials said they were looking in to Lofton's case and expected to approve his eligibility once they could verify his employment record.

Taylor said her father would use the grant money to hire a caregiver to help cook for and feed him.

"It would improve his life greatly. He's underweight and we're very concerned about his weight. The doctors are concerned," she said.

But she also felt the city already owes him the money.

“When Henry Loeb was the mayor, my father not only worked full time. He worked full time and overtime for free for the city of Memphis,” she said.

Taylor commended Mayor Jim Strickland for bringing the issue to light, but wanted to make sure her father received the respect he fought for and deserves.