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Long Dark Road Bill King and Murder in Jasper, Texas by Ricardo C. Ainslie

Long Dark Road Bill King and Murder in Jasper, Texas


Long Dark Road Bill King and Murder in Jasper, Texas by Ricardo C. Ainslie

On a long dark road in deep East Texas, James Byrd Jr. was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck one summer night in 1998. The brutal modern-day lynching stunned people across America and left everyone at a loss to explain how such a heinous crime could possibly happen in our more racially enlightened times. Many eventually found an answer in the fact that two of the three men convicted of the murder had ties to the white supremacist Confederate Knights of America. In the ex-convict ringleader, Bill King, whose body was covered in racist and satanic tattoos, people saw the ultimate monster, someone so inhuman that his crime could be easily explained as the act of a racist psychopath. Few, if any, asked or cared what long dark road of life experiences had turned Bill King into someone capable of committing such a crime. In this gripping account of the murder and its aftermath, Ricardo Ainslie builds an unprecedented psychological profile of Bill King that provides the fullest possible explanation of how a man who was not raised in a racist family, who had African American friends in childhood, could end up on death row for viciously killing a black man. Ainslie draws on exclusive in-prison interviews with King, as well as with Shawn Berry (another of the perpetrators), King's father, Jasper residents, and law enforcement and judicial officials, to lay bare the psychological and social forces-as well as mere chance-that converged in a murder on that June night. Ainslie delves into the whole of King's life to discover how his unstable family relationships and emotional vulnerability made him especially susceptible to the white supremacist ideology he adopted while in jail for lesser crimes. With its depth of insight, Long Dark Road not only answers the question of why such a racially motivated murder happened in our time, but it also offers a frightening, cautionary tale of the urgent need to intervene in troubled young lives and to reform our violent, racist-breeding prisons. As Ainslie chillingly concludes, far from being an inhuman monster whom we can simply dismiss, Bill King may be more like the rest of us than we care to believe.


Ricardo Ainslie is that rare writer: a scholar who is also a riveting storyteller. Long Dark Road is a deep, haunting, and impressively researched book that deserves a wide readership. Dan Rather, CBS News This book truly is a long, dark road--but one that leads to a profound understanding of human nature. It describes the journey of a healer into the pathology of a killer and the wounded community he left behind. One feels both enlightened and consoled by Ricardo Ainslie's probing and empathic mind. Lawrence Wright, author and New Yorker staff writer Unique and penetrating... In its portrait of Bill King, Long Dark Road offers a glimpse into the mind of a killer that is unnervingly intimate. While never losing sight of the horror of the crime King was convicted of committing, Ainslie makes us understand, through dogged investigation and temperate empathy, the forces that helped warp an otherwise bright and promising individual into one of the most notorious criminals of our time. Stephen Harrigan, author of Gates of the Alamo, A Natural State, Water and Light, and Comanche Midnight

About the Author

A native of Mexico City, Ricardo C. Ainslie is an award-winning psychologist-psychoanalyst who uses books, documentary films, and photographic exhibits to capture and depict subjects of social and cultural interest. His books include Long Dark Road: Bill King and Murder In Jasper, Texas; The Psychology of Twinship; and No Dancin' in Anson: An American Story of Race and Social Change. His films include The Mystery of Consciousness; Ya Basta! Kidnapped in Mexico; Looking North: Mexican Images of Immigration; and Crossover: A Story of Desegregation. Ainslie teaches at the University of Texas at Austin and also has a private practice with adult patients.

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Book Info

Publication date

28th September 1976


Ricardo C. Ainslie

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University of Texas Press


254 pages


True crime



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