June 7

May 2, 1949 – June 7, 1998  James Byrd, Jr.

Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Former President Barack Obama greets Louvon Harris, left, Betty Byrd Boatner, right, both sisters of James Byrd, Jr., and Judy Shepard, center, mother of Matthew Shepard, following his remarks at a reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the East Room of the White House, Oct. 28, 2009

James Byrd, Jr. was an African American man who was brutally killed by three men of which two were confirmed to be white supremacists in Jasper, Texas on June 7, 1998.  Bryd was dragged behind a pick-up truck for three miles on an asphalt road.  During the unthinkable ordeal, one of Byrd’s arms and his head were cut off.   Byrd was conscious most of the time while being dragged behind the truck.  His torso was dropped off at a African American cemetery by the men.  All three men, Shawn Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer and John King were convicted of murder.  Brewer and King were sentenced to the death penalty and Berry to life in prison.  In 2011, Brewer was executed by lethal injection.  This hate crime led to the passage on October 22, 2009 of the Federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  President Obama signed the it into law in 2009.