In this file photo taken on February 24, 1999 John William King (C) is escorted into the Jasper County Courthouse for the penalty phase of his capital murder trial in Jasper, Texas. Image Credit: AFP

Washington: The US state of Texas has executed John William King, a white supremacist convicted two decades ago for killing African-American James Byrd Jr. in one of the most horrific hate crimes in modern American history.

The execution by a lethal injection carried out at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, came after the US Supreme Court turned down King’s last petition for a stay.

King, 44, was one of three men convicted for the murder. He is the second person to be executed for the crime that made news around the world and helped inspire Congress to pass federal hate crime legislation, reports CNN.

King was pronounced dead at 7.08pm, on Wednesday at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville.

According to Jeremy Desel with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, King had his eyes closed and replied “No” to the warden when asked whether he had any last words.

King did give a written statement that said: “Capital Punishment: Them without the capital get the punishment.”

Clara Byrd Taylor said while watching her brother’s killer die she felt nothing. “There was no sense of relief,” she said and called the execution a “just punishment”.

On a Sunday morning in 1998, King and two other white men — Lawrence Russell Brewer, Shawn Berry — attacked Byrd, a 49-year-old black man who had been offered a ride home in a sinister gesture of neighbourliness, reports The New York Times.

The men beat him, spray-painted his face, chained him to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him to his death on an isolated back road.

King, who had come out of a stint in prison, was a committed white supremacist, his body a billboard of racist tattoos, including one depicting a black man hanged in a noose.

Less than a year after the killing, King became the first white man in modern Texas history to be sentenced to death for killing a black person.

Brewer died by injection in 2011 and Berry was sentenced to life in prison and is eligible for parole in 2038.

The murder led Texas to pass the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act in 2001, strengthening punishments for crimes motivated by bigotry.