On June 7, 1998, James Byrd Jr., a forty-nine-year-old black man, was walking home from a party when three white men in a pickup truck offered him a ride.
They drove Byrd out to a lonely country road, tied him to a logging chain, and dragged him three miles to his death.
There are five schools in the Jasper Independent School District, only one of them a high school.
Teens who graduate from the high school usually head for higher academic ground or better-paying jobs at plants in larger Texas cities, like Beaumont or Port Arthur.
Joyce King, an award-winning journalist and native Texan, was assigned to cover the story, which drew international media headlines.
They do so without all the big-city hassles, without the rush and crush of traffic nightmares and rude citified behavior.Attendees can drink as much as they want in the privacy of someone's home and avoid the weekend crackdown on public alcohol consumption.Texas peace officers are rare but firm upholders of the state's hard-to-enforce open-container law: Don't get caught driving while taking a swig.Given that there is little to do in Jasper on the weekend, others routinely grab Burger King specials or pack up their own food for picnic get-togethers at nearby Martin Dies Jr. Dozens more hitch up the boat or Jet Skis and head for Steinhagen Lake, Toledo Bend, or Sam Rayburn Reservoir, a beautiful body of water named after the native son who proudly served as one of the nation's most colorful Speakers of the House of Representatives and who is widely remembered for his dogged insistence that his colleagues vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.Others, shunning big-city lights and nearby tourist attractions, love the quiet serenity and beauty of Jasper.Jasper has a rich history and attracts annual tourists for hugely profitable bass-fishing tournaments.A sprinkling of brand-name chain hotels, as well as quaint little lodging houses, lots of churches, tasty homemade food, and friendly people give Jasper a reputation for being a cut above most East Texas towns.Enlightened people who live within Jasper's city limits point to its obvious differencestheir mayor, R. Horn, is black; prominent leaders of both races get along and work well together; and the census shows that the town itself is roughly made up of equal parts: Though it fluctuates, Jasper is approximately 45 percent African-American and about 48 percent Anglo, with most of the remaining percentage Hispanic.It is a pretty place, strikingly clean, contemporary, but still connected to timeless traditions.A first-rate work of reportage, Hate Crime is also a searing look at how race continues to shape life in America.A former reporter and anchor for a CBS radio affiliate, Joyce King is an award-winning twenty-year broadcast veteran. One Jasper is extremely small, a typical East Texas bedroom community.