Jasper Revisited: James Byrd's Mother Speaks

James Byrd, Jr.'s mother, Stella, says the filmmakers who made the documentary "Two Towns of Jasper" misled her family about the intent of the film. Mrs. Byrd also says she and her family want nothing to do with tomorrow night's town hall meeting from Jasper on ABC's "Nightline."

In the past couple of years, Stella Byrd has granted very few interviews. But she did recently sit down with the East Texas News to talk about a book she has just published.

"I had to come to some sort of closure. By writing, it released a lot of pressure for me." said Stella Byrd. "I wanted to share with the rest of the world some of the letters I've gotten from children from all over the world."

Stella Byrd has received a lot of support in the past four and a half years. However, for anyone who has never lost a child, it is impossible to know exactly what she has gone through.

And when you consider the way in which her son was taken from her, it would be easy to understand if she were filled with bitterness or even hatred. But Stella Byrd says that's not what she's about.

She says she has always taught her children and grandchildren that there is good and bad in all races, and you can't judge a whole race by what a few of its members do. The East Texas News did an interview with Mrs. Byrd on June 9th, 1998, just two days after her son's murder.

"I hope peace can come from it." said Mrs. Byrd back then. "Because we all have to live in peace and together on this earth."

Many of the people we spoke with in Jasper say the grace and dignity displayed by Stella Byrd and her family in the days following the tragedy went a long way toward holding the town together... especially when so many people thought Jasper would be torn apart.

Mrs. Byrd says she has learned that you don't have to be alone in the world. She says there's always someone out there who cares for you. That's what she hopes people will learn from her book "Hope Amidst Despair: A Grieving Mother Speaks." She also wants people to learn about her family and what kind of people they are.

"We have a very large family," said Mrs. Byrd. "Everyone gets along well. We used to have a family day, but we've only had it once since James was killed. It's sort of incomplete now. We're working on it."

James Byrd, Jr. was one of six girls and two boys. His mother says they still try to be a normal family. I asked how people treat her family now.

"They treat us nice, because I won't let them do us any other way," said Stella Byrd. "We're just ordinary people."