Eddie Lee Mays had no idea how history would remember him.
But the Harlem resident occupies a distinct place in corrections record books.
On August 15, 1963, he was the last person put to death by New York state.
By all accounts, Mays was a bad dude. He’d already served time for killing a man in North Carolina, his home state.
Some time after his release, the 32-year-old and two accomplices held up the Friendly Tavern, at 1403 Fifth Avenue in East Harlem (below, a bodega today), one early morning in March 1961.
“[Mays] demanded that the patrons put their wallets and purses on the bar,” the Daily News recalled in a 1998 article.
But a 31-year-old named Maria Marini was frozen in fear and didn’t move quickly enough. An enraged Mays pointed a gun to her temple and fired, killing her instantly.
After his arrest, trial, and conviction for first-degree murder, “Mays had said he would rather ‘fry’ than spend his life in prison,” reported the Daily News.
And that’s what happened in the death house at Sing Sing. He was the 695th person to be executed by the state since 1890. Two years later, the death penalty in New York was repealed.
It was restored in the 1990s, then deemed unconstitutional in 2005, with no executions carried out and no one on death row to execute.