John William King, who orchestrated one of the most gruesome hate crimes in U.S. history faces execution for the infamous dragging death nearly 21 years ago of James Byrd Jr., a black man from East Texas. King was executed by lethal injection on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Picture: Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP

Los Angeles - A Texas death row inmate was on Wednesday executed for murdering a black man over 20 years ago in a hate crime, local media reported.

John King and accomplices Lawrence Brewer and Shawn Berry murdered 49-year-old James Byrd Jr by dragging him behind their truck after picking him up while he was hitchhiking in Jasper, Texas in June 1998.

Brewer was executed in 2011 for the crime, while Berry is serving a life sentence.

King, who was sentenced to death in 1999, was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital and pronounced dead at 7:08 pm [0005 GMT Thursday], the Texas Tribune reported.

During his trial, King was described as a brutal racist who had spoken of starting a white supremacist gang. He was notoriously covered in racist tattoos including a swastika and a visual depiction of a black man's lynching.

The murder, considered one of modern America's worst hate crimes, prompted Texas to pass the James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Act in 2001, strengthening punishments for crimes motivated by "actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person."

Congress followed suit in 2009 when it passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act into federal law.

dpa