Town re­flects on drag­ging death ahead of ex­e­cu­tion

The News-Times - - NATION/WORLD - — As­so­ci­ated Press

A tech­nol­ogy com­pany was al­most ready to bring up to 300 new jobs to Jasper, Texas, but in the fi­nal stages of re­cent ne­go­ti­a­tions, a po­ten­tial deal-breaker emerged: the com­mu­nity’s his­tory as the place where three white men dragged a black man be­hind a pickup, killing him.

The 1998 death of James Byrd Jr. was one of the most grue­some hate crimes in U.S. his­tory, and it gave the com­pany pres­i­dent pause in the dis­cus­sions about where to lo­cate his firm’s new­est fa­cil­ity. Lo­cal clergy and com­mu­nity lead­ers made their case that the town of 7,600 peo­ple is not de­fined by a mur­der that hap­pened al­most 21 years ago.

They were able to con­vince the ex­ec­u­tive “that we are a lot dif­fer­ent than what the world sees us as,” said Ed­die Hop­kins, head of the Jasper Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion.

The town’s past will be re­vis­ited this com­ing week, when the con­victed ring­leader in Byrd’s slay­ing is sched­uled to be ex­e­cuted. Lo­cal lead­ers in­sist Jasper is a wel­com­ing place that pun­ished Byrd’s killers and will never for­get what hap­pened to him. But other towns­peo­ple, as well as mem­bers of Byrd’s fam­ily, be­lieve Jasper has never fully ac­cepted the crime’s place in its his­tory. They say some ten­sions be­tween the white and black com­mu­ni­ties re­main un­re­solved.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.