For more information:                        
Aimee McMillin, 901/527-6163,
David Brown, 901/527-6163,

Historic Processional Cross to Lead MLK-Day March
December, 2001
Use at will.

MEMPHIS, TENN. --- 1968 was a time of chaos in Memphis. Racial injustice was rampant. The sanitation workers' strike divided the community.

The stench from the garbage was becoming unbearable. It was now April 4. The strike had gone on for 53 days.

Word echoed throughout the city about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - shot dead in Memphis while standing on his balcony at the Lorraine Motel. The city was in an uproar.

Unfortunately, tragedy would not bring an immediate resolution. Then-Mayor Henry Loeb still refused to bend and meet the workers' demands. Tensions were at an all-time high.

At St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, ministers, priests and rabbis met to conduct their own memorial service for Dr. King.

They wept. They prayed. And they took a stand.

It was there that they decided enough was enough. The clergy would march to City Hall to demand that the Mayor resolve the strike.

Dean William Dimmick of St. Mary's picked up the Cathedral's gold processional cross and in an impromptu move, led the march.

"It was a divisive move by Dean Dimmick in the white community," CB Baker, current Dean of St. Mary's recalls. "He showed support for racial reconciliation at a time when it wasn't popular."

The march was for several reasons: A tribute to the late Dr. King, as well as an attempt on the clergy's behalf to show their racial unity at a time when the city was terribly divided.

The strike ended on April 16, but the wounds remained.

Today, times are different. Most view each other as neighbors and not as strangers. Common goals are shared.

But there is still racial discord in the community. And silent suffering that must be addressed.

For the first time in nearly 34 years, the gold processional cross from St. Mary's will be used in a public ceremony when the Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC) march from City Hall to the National Civil Rights Museum. The march will take place on January 21 - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day -  as part of the group's appeal to end racism.

In honor of Dimmick's passionate will to break down racial barriers, Baker will lead CUIC's march and carry the cross.

While the march is symbolic of times past, change is still necessary to help close the gap between the races.

"This is my way of joining with Dean Dimmick's cause," Baker says. "We've come a long way in repairing racial inequities since 1968, but there is still much work to be done." 


Editor's note: For more information on the January event in Memphis, contact David Brown of Conaway Brown, at 901-527-6163.

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