White supremacist executed for killing black man by dragging him behind truck

PHOTO: In this file photo taken on Feb. 24, 1999 John William King is escorted into the Jasper County Courthouse for the penalty phase of his capital murder trial in Jasper, Texas.PlayPaul Buck/AFP/Getty Images, FILE
WATCH America in black and white: A murder in Jasper, Texas: Feb. 23, 1999

White supremacist John William King was executed on Wednesday, more than 20 years after he killed James Byrd Jr. in a horrifying hate crime.

PHOTO: This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows John William King. Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP
This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows John William King.

King was one of three white men convicted of murdering Byrd, who was black, on June 7, 1998, near Jasper, Texas.

Byrd, a 49-year-old father of three, was abducted, beaten, chained to the back of a pickup truck and then dragged down a country road.

He was dragged for nearly three miles and was alive for at least two of those miles, according to The Associated Press.

His body was decapitated, dismembered and ditched.

PHOTO:In this file photo, Ricky Jason wears a photograph of James Byrd Jr. outside the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit on the day of the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer, Sept. 21, 2011, in Huntsville, Texas. David J. Phillip/AP, FILE
PHOTO:In this file photo, Ricky Jason wears a photograph of James Byrd Jr. outside the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Huntsville Unit on the day of the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer, Sept. 21, 2011, in Huntsville, Texas.

King, 44, orchestrated the attack, according to the AP. He was sentenced to death in 1999.

The other killers were Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed in September 2011, and Shawn Allen Berry, who is serving life in prison.

In 1999, Byrd's family founded the Byrd Foundation for Racial Healing, a non-profit organization that works to promote "racial healing and cultural diversity through education."

PHOTO: In this April 10, 2019, photo Mylinda Byrd Washington, 66, left, and Louvon Byrd Harris, 61, hold up photographs of their brother James Byrd Jr. in Houston. Juan Lozano/AP,FILE
In this April 10, 2019, photo Mylinda Byrd Washington, 66, left, and Louvon Byrd Harris, 61, hold up photographs of their brother James Byrd Jr. in Houston.

Byrd's gruesome slaying led to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama in 2009.

The legislation added crimes motivated by victims' race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to the federal hate crime law. Shepard, an openly gay college student, was abducted, fatally beaten and tied to a fence in Wyoming in October 1998.

PHOTO: James Byrd Sr. and Stella arrange flowers around a new headstone commemorating their son, James Byrd Jr., Feb. 1, 1999, in Jasper, Texas. Pat Sullivan/AP, FILE
James Byrd Sr. and Stella arrange flowers around a new headstone commemorating their son, James Byrd Jr., Feb. 1, 1999, in Jasper, Texas.

King's execution took place in Huntsville, Texas, at 7 p.m. local time Wednesday.

King called himself an "unrepentant racist" -- but innocent of the crime -- in a 2004 interview with ABC News.

PHOTO: In this file photo taken on Feb. 24, 1999 John William King is escorted into the Jasper County Courthouse for the penalty phase of his capital murder trial in Jasper, Texas. Paul Buck/AFP/Getty Images, FILE
In this file photo taken on Feb. 24, 1999 John William King is escorted into the Jasper County Courthouse for the penalty phase of his capital murder trial in Jasper, Texas.

Allen Richard Ellis, an appeals attorney for King, told ABC News in 2003 that King's "racist beliefs" left him on death row even though he said the crime wasn't race-related.

"Byrd was not killed because he was black," said Ellis. "There was a history of drug dealing between one of the people in the apartment and Mr. Byrd. Mr. Byrd had ripped one of them off, and this is unfortunately what happened to him."

"A lot of people in this country, for very good reason, would find him to be a very offensive person," Ellis said of his client, but added that "he deserves unconflicted legal representation."

Ellis did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on Wednesday.

ABC News' Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.

Comments