James Byrd Jr. (May 2, 1949 – June 7, 1998) was an African-American who was murdered by three white supremacists, in Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998. Shawn Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John King dragged Byrd for three miles behind a pick-up truck along an asphalt road. Byrd, who remained conscious throughout most of the ordeal, was killed when his body hit the edge of a culvert, severing his right arm and head. The murderers drove on for another mile (1500 m) before dumping his torso in front of an African-American cemetery in Jasper. Byrds lynching-by-dragging gave impetus to passage of a Texas hate crimes law. It later led to the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, commonly known as the Matthew Shepard Act, which passed on October 22, 2009, and which President Barack Obama signed into law on October 28, 2009.
Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed via lethal injection for this crime by the state of Texas on September 21, 2011. King remains on Texas death row while appeals are pending,   while Berry was sentenced to life imprisonment.
James Byrd Jr. was born in Beaumont, Texas, one of nine children, to Stella (1925 – October 7, 2010) and James Byrd Sr. (born 1924).
Ross Byrd, the only son of James Byrd Jr., has been involved with Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, an organization that opposes capital punishment. He has campaigned to spare the lives of those who murdered his father and appears briefly in the documentary Deadline. 
On June 7, 1998, Byrd, age 49, accepted a ride from Shawn Berry (age 24), Lawrence Russell Brewer (age 31) and John King (age 23). Berry, who was driving, was acquainted with Byrd from around town. Instead of taking Byrd home, the three men took Byrd to a remote county road out of town, beat him severely, urinated on him and chained him by his ankles to their pickup truck before dragging him for approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km). Brewer later claimed that Byrds throat had been slashed by Berry before