White Supremacist Ringleader Who Dragged Black Man To Death To Be Executed This Week

The killing was one of the most gruesome in American history.

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| April 24 2019,

00:00 am

A white supremacist who dragged a Black man to death will be executed this week for the heinous killing.

James William King is slated to be put to death in Jasper, Texas, for the 1998 killing of James Byrd Jr., The Associated Press reports.

In the predawn hours of June 7, 1998, three white men offered to give Byrd a ride home. Instead of following up their offer with kindness, the trio chained the 49-year-old to the back of a pickup truck and dragged his body for three miles. Reports from the time said Byrd was alive for about two miles until his body was separated into pieces. The victim was dumped on the side of the road near a Black church soon after. 

Court documents state the four men then shared beers and cigarettes. There was no indication any provocation from the late Byrd led to the troubling killing. 

King was identified as the ringleader of the group of white supremacists. Another member of the group, Lawrence Russell Brewer, was the first to be executed in 2011. The third man, Shawn Allen Berry, is currently serving a life sentence in prison.

According to CNN, the killing was one of the most gruesome in American history. Byrd's tragic murder was referenced in several songs from artists such as the Geto Boys and Will Smith as well as documentaries and poems.

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The hate crime also helped change the laws regarding attacks against Black people. Starting in 2001, then-Governor Rick Perry signed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act into law. The bill punishes offenders more harshly for crimes committed based on race, religion, age, gender, disability, national origin or sexual orientation.

Congress and the Texas legislature created the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009 named after Byrd and Shepard, who was beaten to death in Wyoming because of his sexuality.  

Byrd's slaying unearthed racial tensions and led to decades of economic instability. Companies did not want to be associated with a town where an infamous hate crime took place. According to The AP's recent report, a major tech company was on the verge of bringing 300 jobs to the small town when negotiations broke down.

The townspeople have desperately tried to get away from the lasting legacy of the killing. Some want to move on without actually reconciling and healing the people affected. 

"I think, quite frankly, people in Jasper are tired of talking about it. They want to forget it," Mylinda Washington, 66, one of Byrd's sisters, told the AP. "It happened here, and we need to always have that in front of us."

While many await the day the interviews stop, some believe everyone should remember what happened to prevent such a violent and malicious crime from happening again. 

"It certainly doesn't go away, and we certainly remember what happened," interim Mayor Gary Gatlin told the AP.

King never confessed to the murder, but the overwhelming evidence led to his conviction and sentencing. He will be put to death Wednesday at 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET) at the Texas State Penitentiary inHuntsville.


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John William King
James Byrd Jr.
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