Every once in a while, however, a remark comes along that is so repugnant that it simply boggles the mind. The "Reverend" William Lawson, pastor emeritus of the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, eulogizing on the passing of Ken Lay, had this to say:
Lawson likened Lay to James Byrd, a black man who was dragged to death in a racially motivated murder near Jasper eight years ago.Yes, you heard him correctly: Kenneth Lay, a man who defrauded tens-of-thousands of investors; who cheated tens-of thousands of employees out of their retirement savings; who conspired to rig the energy grid in California to maximize Enron profits, thereby defrauding million of people, many of whom are on a fixed income; yeah, that guy, is being compared to James Byrd, a black man who was brutally knifed and beaten, and then chained to the bumper of a pickup truck, and dragged around back country roads until his body disintegrated:
"Ken Lay was neither black nor poor, as James Byrd was, but I'm angry because Ken was the victim of a lynching," said Lawson, who predicted that history will vindicate Lay.
His comments, met by hearty applause, referred to Lay's recent federal trial on fraud and conspiracy charges stemming from Enron's unraveling in 2001 and four charges of bank fraud. Lay had planned to appeal his conviction and was awaiting sentencing when he died.
On June 7, 1998, Byrd, 49, accepted a ride from Berry, Brewer, and King. Instead of taking him home, however, the three men beat Byrd, tied him to a pickup truck with a chain, and dragged him about three miles. An autopsy suggested that Byrd was alive for much of the dragging and died only after his right arm and head were severed when his body hit a culvert.I am truly at a loss for words.
King, Berry, and Brewer dumped their victim's mutilated remains in the town's segregated black cemetery, and then went to a barbeque.
State law enforcement officials and Jasper’s District Attorney determined that since King and Brewer were well-known white supremacists, the murder was a hate crime, and decided to bring in the FBI less than 24 hours after the discovery of Byrd’s brutalized remains. One of Byrd's murderers, John King, had a tattoo depicting a black man hanging from a tree, and other tattoos such as Nazi symbols, the words "Aryan Pride," and the patch for the Confederate Knights of America, a gang of white supremacist inmates. In a jailhouse letter to Brewer which was intercepted by jail officials, King expressed pride in the crime and said he realized he might have to die for committing it. "Regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history. Death before dishonor. Sieg Heil!", King wrote.
Brewer and King were sentenced to death. Berry received life in prison.
Numerous aspects of the Byrd murder echo lynching traditions, including mutilation or decapitation, and revelry such as a barbeque or picnic during or after. These are documented by James Allen in his book, film and exhibit about lynching, Without Sanctuary, which consists of photographs taken from the 1800s through 1960 of white townspeople, including women and young children, picnicking and posing next to the corpses of lynching victims.
What I find even more baffling is that Lawson is black.