January 11th, 2019
The Hate Crime of James Byrd Jr.
During the 1900s there were many hate crimes occurring caused by race. In some cases, for example, when the investigators took on the case, they soon found the suspects responsible for the incident. In this paper I will be discussing the unforgettable events that took place in Jasper, Texas to an innocent man, James Byrd Jr.
James Byrd Jr. Was born on May 2, 1949, in Beaumont, Texas, James Byrd Jr. had seven other siblings, he was the third born. Mr. And Mrs. James and Stella Byrd, the victim’s parents, raised their family in Jasper, Tx, in east Texas. Their lives revolved around being in church and ensuring their kids were involved in the church as well. Stella Byrd was the church’s Sunday School teacher. James Byrd Sr. was one of the deacons at the Greater New Bethel Baptist Church. James Byrd Jr. was also involved in the church by singing in the choir and playing the piano. In 1967, James graduated from Jasper Rowe High School, which was one of the last known segregated graduating classes in the school history. He had an outstanding academic record and a strong support system form his parents, who encouraged him to do his best. However, James Byrd Jr. did not go to college like the rest of his siblings. he, instead, James got married just a few years out of high school and became a father of three children: Renee, Ross and Jamie. James ended up working as a vacuum salesman. Sadly, he had an alcohol problem and even went to prison for a few years over a small theft. James Byrd Jr. and his wife got divorced in 1993. After the split, he returned home to Jasper in 1996, trying to get his life back on track and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. He was very well liked and loved. Because Brewer and King were well-known white supremacists (King was a member of the KKK and had several racist tattoos, including one depicting a black man being lynched from a cross), law enforcement officials were quick to recognize this vicious attack as a racially motivated hate crime, and the news of Byrd’s “lynching-by-dragging” quickly spread. Investigators had stated Byrd remained conscious throughout much of the incident and died when his body hit the edge of a drainage canal system, cutting his right arm and head off. The day that the funeral was held, over 200 people joined the Byrd family at their church to mourn over the loss of a loved one, along with Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Kweisi Mfume president of the NAACP. This left roughly 600 others to mourn outside of the church because there was not enough room. Dennis Rodman, a famous basketball star, went out and paid for the funeral costs, while Don King kindly donated $10″,000.00 to help support the family of James Byrd Jr.
The known suspects in the case Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John William King. They dragged James Byrd for three long miles from the back of a pick-up truck. They are all white males, two of the three are convicted burglars and the last on is a drug offender. They had faced charges of murder in the awful death of James Byrd Jr, a Jasper resident. The three men chained James Jr. To the back bumper of a pick-up truck, by his ankles and then, dragged him 3 miles on the asphalt road out in the woods. After police had discovered the headless body of James Byrd Jr., they immediately began to search the area and after some time, they recovered a wrench with “Berry” labeled to it, along with some of James’s belongings. Several months after the crime, the men involved with the murder were all convicted and charged with capital murder. Brewer was executed on September 21st, 2011. This marked the very first time in Texas history where a white made has been sentenced to death and was executed for killing a black person. Ross Byrd, the only son of James Byrd and a staunch anti-death penalty advocate, publicly protested Brewer’s execution. King is currently on Texas’ death row, while Berry is serving a life prison sentence. Brewer paid the price for taking a hopeless man’s life, he was se charged and got sentenced to death by lethal injection. “As far as any regrets, no, I don’t have any regrets”,” Brewer told a reporter in a past jailhouse interview. – (Uknown, September 21st, 2011.)
Brewer, 44, was one of three men convicted for involvement in the murder of James Byrd. “Lawrence, was executed by lethal injection at 6:21 p.m. local time (7:21 p.m. ET) Wednesday, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Brewer ate a huge final meal, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark. It consisted of chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, a cheese omelet, a bowl of fried okra, barbeque, fajitas, pizza, and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts.” -(CNN Wire Staff, February, 21st, 2011.) After the meal, Brewer was given time to make phone calls to family and friends.
There are no logged witnesses to the case other than the people who were involved and the person who came across James’ body.
What led to the crime?
“I just knew something was terribly wrong. It’s such a small town that we had already heard the rumors that a black man was found dead, but we didn’t know who it was. Until the knock on our door.”- Betty Boatner. June 6, John William King, Lawrence Russell Brewer and Shawn Allen Berry were reported to have been drinking that night and just cruising around town. They were out looking for women and looking to have a good time. Instead of finding a woman to fulfill their desires, they stumbled upon James Byrd, Jr., walking down the street headed home by himself, from a different party. They offered James Jr. A ride back home. He gladly accepted and jumped in the back of a pick-up truck and the driver began to drive off. Unfortunately, what James Byrd Jr. Did not know was that the other two men in the truck had been talking about the days they spent in Texas Prison as gang members known as the Confederate Knights of America. A few miles into the ride, the four men were headed down a winding path that was just wide enough for the truck to fit. When the truck stopped, John King and Lawrence Brewer attacked James Jr. and forced him out of the truck. Byrd was disabled but fought them off as much as he could, for as long as they could. He had no idea that his crime had been predetermined because his skin was the wrong color. After the men immobilized him, they took the 24-foot-long chain and unwrapped it. They wrapped one end around Byrd’s ankles, and the other end was wrapped around the ball on the rear end bumper of the truck.
On June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr. Was 49 at the time, he had just left his parents’ house and was walking on Huff Creek Road in Jasper, Texas. Three men were driving and pulled along-side of him and offered him a ride, John William King, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and Shawn Allen Berry, were the ones in the vehicle and they were said to be drinking that day. Not knowing how the ride would turn out, he accepted. The men then proceeded to drive their unsuspecting victim to a remote location and began to beat and urinated on him. They tied him to the back bumper of the pick-up truck by his ankles, using long chains and began to drive. When they started driving, the did not stop until he was for sure to be dead and his body was completely dismembered. Different areas of his body had been found in seventy-five different places within the two-mile stretch of long deserted country road that the three men took to end this man’s life. James’s torso was found roughly one mile away from where investigators discovered his head. The men responsible, left the remaining body parts attached to the truck in a nearby black cemetery and left to go eat. Law enforcement agents discovered James’s identity by using his fingerprints. The horrible nature of his death quickly gathered the world’s attention and shined a spotlight on racialized hate crimes that go on in America.
The tragic incident happened on Huff Creek Road in Jasper, Texas. Just before dinner in the Byrd household, the county sheriff police officer, Sgt. James Carter knocked on the door of Mr. And Mrs. James and Stella Byrd’s home, they were the parents of the victim. He walked into the house and greeted Stella, removed his white hat and bowed his head. He then, with a sad and depressing look on his face gave the horrible news about the tragic incident that took their son’s life. It would later come out about the way he died. James Byrd Jr. Was chained to the back of a pick-up truck by his ankles and was being dragged for about three consistent miles. In 1998, James Byrd was buried in the Jasper City Cemetery after he went through that horrible event.
Because Lawrence Brewer and John William King were well-known white supremacists, the local law enforcement officials were extremely quick to label this vicious attack as a racially motivated hate crime, and the word of the tragic story rapidly got around and caused an uproar across the nation.
The three men saw Byrd Jr. Walking down the street and offered him a ride home. However, James never made it home that day. They beat him repeatedly when he asked where they were taking him, subdued him, and tied his ankles to the ball on the back of the truck, and drove for two dreadful miles until James’s body was completely lifeless and dismembered. The police found around 72 different placed that had contained body parts of James. The evidence that was collected was used to find the offender.
To conclude my research, the world became very aware of the pure hatred that surrounded them. Although James Byrd Jr. Was of the minority race, he still deserved justice and for his story to be shared to inform people to be careful. He did not know that getting into that truck with those men was going to be the last thing he ever did. Cases like this, showed the world’s true color and how much hatred was around every corner. People took this as a lesson and learned from it. The community did not let this break them, however, it made them stronger and has brought them closer together