October 27, 2016
Posted by on
On January 24, 1992, I joined a few dozen civil rights and peace activists outside Bill Clinton’s home to protest his decision to promote his political career by murdering Ricky Ray Rector. Clinton, then Arkansas’ governor, had flown home from the campaign trail for a day specifically for the execution — hoping this judicial murder of a mentally retarded African-American man would bolster his political fortunes by demonstrating that he was “tough on crime.” (It was one of several Clinton “triangulation” moves during the campaign, and during his presidency, in which he abused African-Americans in order to curry favor with conservatives.)
Ricky Ray Rector was not innocent. He had shot a man in a fit of anger, fled, and then shot and killed the police officer who came to arrest him. Smart enough to recognize that there was no future in Arkansas for a black man who killed a police officer, Rector turned his gun on himself, blowing out a good chunk of his brain. Police rushed him to the hospital, where he was patched up and sent to jail. Basically lobotomized, with an IQ measured at 63, Rector could not recall his murders or assist his attorneys at trial. Before his grisly execution (it took nearly an hour of poking at his veins to administer the lethal injection), Rector ate his last dinner. He set aside his slice of pecan pie; when the guards asked why he said that he would eat it after the execution.
Ricky Ray Rector never got to eat that piece of pie. Bill Clinton had him killed because he thought it would get him some votes. He went on to give us the crime bill, welfare “reform,” “don’t ask don’t tell,” and an economic bonanza for the richest among us. On Friday he’s speaking at Albright College, where I teach, in support of his wife’s candidacy. I won’t be there, but I can’t help wondering where she was while her husband was killing Ricky Ray Rector. I know she wasn’t out there with us, on the picket line.