(This event was previously scheduled in September, but was postponed to accommodate those attending memorial services for Ann Richards.)
Special thanks to Allstate for sponsoring OCA's series on Hate Crimes Education.
On June 7, 1998, one of the most gruesome and disturbing events in this countrys recent history unfolded in the small town of Jasper, Texas. James Byrd, Jr., a black man, was walking home from a party when he was stopped by three white men in a pickup truck. They offered to take him home, and he climbed into the bed of the truck. The three white men, however, did not take him home. Instead, they took him to a desolate, wooded area outside of town, where they chained him to the back of the truck by his ankles, and dragged him for more than three miles.
By the time the three men stopped the truck, Byrd had been decapitated and his right arm was severed. The three men unhitched the remains from their truck and tossed it in front of the gate to one of Jasper Countys oldest black cemeteries.
A sheriff investigating the scene found a lighter with three interlocking Ks on the bloody trail on the road.
In 2001, the Texas Legislature drafted and passed, and Governor Perry signed into law, the James Byrd Jr. Act, which increases the penalty for so-called hate crimes. Hate crimes are defined by the Act as those committed against victims who are intentionally selected by the defendant on the basis of the defendants bias or prejudice against a group identified by race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, or sexual preference.
State Representative Scott Hochberg was one of the coauthors of that law. His district includes Gulfton, Sharpstown, Briarmeadow, Shenandoah, Piney Point and nearby communities. It is a very diverse district, with substantial Black, Hispanic, and Asian populations, in addition to the Anglo demographic. If anyone knows about the virtues, as well as the challenges, of diversity, it is Representative Hochberg.
OCA-Greater Houston, UHLC's Society on Law and Politics, the Asian Law Students Association, and the Black Law Students Association invite you to join Representative Hochberg at the UHLC campus as he reflects upon the James Byrd Jr. Act and its continuing relevance in our society.