Gary Gilmore (1940-1977) was the first person legally put to death for murder after the Supreme Court in 1977 lifted the ban on the death penalty that it had imposed five years earlier, in 1972. He had killed a motel manager in Provo, Utah. He was also charged with murdering a gas station employee in Orem, Utah, the previous day, but that case never went to trial.

He was shot by a firing squad after angrily telling his lawyers to drop the appeals they had filed in defiance of his wishes. Gilmore had spent 18 of his last 21 years in jail and prison; he hurried the justice process along. Through the waiting process, Gilmore attempted suicide twice while he waited in prison. The execution was stayed three times. Gilmore's last words were "let's do it."

Gilmore requested that, following his execution, his eyes be used for transplant purposes. Within hours of the execution, two people received his corneas, inspiring the Adverts to write and release "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" later that year.