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Gary Lee "Shaka Sankofa" Graham
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Birth: Sep. 5, 1963
Harris County
Texas, USA
Death: Jun. 22, 2000
Walker County
Texas, USA

Criminal and political civil rights activist. He was born under the name of Gary Lee Graham to Willie Graham and Thelma Griffin. His mother (who died in 1988) was institutionalized for mental illness for extended periods of time, and Graham was raised at age 7 by his paternal grandmother Joanne (also under a mental illness), his father (who was a chronic alcoholic), and his stepmother Elnora Graham, under a harsh childhood of poverty, abuse and neglect in Houston, Texas. Because he couldn't read or write, he dropped out of high school and fathered two children, Deidra and Gary Lee Hawkins, by the age of 15. Graham started turning to non-violent petty offenses, and at age 17, he started a week-long series of 10 armed robberies and aggravated assaults on May 14, 1981 (the day after 53-year-old Bobby Grant Lambert was murdered at a parking lot of a Safeway supermarket in Houston). On May 20, Graham was arrested for the robberies, and a week later, a witness named Bernadine Skillern allegedly identified him as Lambert's murderer. At trial Graham pleaded guilty to the robberies and assaults to which he faced 20-year prison sentences, but not guilty to the murder of Lambert. However, because it is believed that Graham was poorly represented at the time of the trial and the jury failed to hear from a few other witnesses who believed that he was not the murderer because of a faulty defense lawyer, and of lack of physical evidence and any other suspects, he was convicted of murder; and on November 9, 1981, he was sentenced to death at age 18, at a time when juvenile executions were still around. During his time on Death Row, he is said to have turned his life around: He learned to read and write, and earned his GED and paralegal certification; he also co-founded a prison organization and a newspaper called "The Endeavor Project", devoted to abolishing capital punishment. From 1987 to 1999 he was scheduled to be executed five times, and each time he earned a stay of execution. In 1995, he changed his name to Shaka Sankofa, because the name is said to have represented his African heritage and freedom. During his final years up to his execution his case attracted worldwide attention from public figures and celebrities. In 2000, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, appointed by President George W. Bush (then-governor of Texas), voted against requests for a reprieve, commutation, pardon, or halt. On June 22, after his appeals were exhausted, Sankofa was dragged from the cell to a gurney in Huntsville, Texas, where he was executed by lethal injection in spite of protests. In his long final statement, he maintained his innocence to the very end and encouraged everyone to abolish the death penalty. He became the 222nd person executed in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated in 1982. On June 28, more than 2,000 people, including his family and his grandson, attended the wake, and a funeral followed the next day, attended by 200 more people, after which he was interred in Paradise North Cemetery. Sankofa is memorialized in a book he had written at the end of his life, called "The Evolution of Shaka Sankofa", published after his death. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed executions of juvenile offenders, and today, activists and death penalty abolitionists are still working hard to fulfill his last request to abolish the death penalty. (bio by: Debbie Kearns) 
Paradise North Cemetery
Harris County
Texas, USA
Plot: Garden of Memories, Plot 65 North, Space 3
Created by: Gardee Hill
Record added: Dec 08, 2005
Find A Grave Memorial# 12627714
Gary Lee Shaka Sankofa Graham
Added by: L Madison Maday
Gary Lee Shaka Sankofa Graham
Added by: Rick Kauffman
Gary Lee Shaka Sankofa Graham
Added by: Gardee Hill
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