Randolph Arledge held up his hands in victory after being exonerated and set free.
"It's indescribable; a beautiful feeling," he said.
Arledge, now 58, was convicted of murdering and raping a woman in Corsicana in 1984. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison after being falsely accused by an acquaintance.
The Innocence Project, led by Barry Scheck, took on Arledge's case. DNA evidence eventually cleared him, and pointed the finger of blame at a man with a violent history.
He found out Tuesday he was being released.
"I couldn't talk; I still can't talk," Arledge said. "I think I'm all cried out. It's hard to describe."
Arledge's children were four and seven when he was convicted; he said that's what bothered him the most.
"It's pretty hard; they're the ones who suffered the most," he said. "I talked about picking them up from school, and now they are picking me up."
His children said they never had a doubt about his innocence, and prayed for a breakthrough in this case.
Others who have been exonerated were at Aldridge's side, and handed him a $100 bill to start his new life.
He left the courthouse with only a plastic bag full of belongings.
Arledge said he's not bitter; just thankful to God he's free.
His first order of business? To buy a cheeseburger and a banana split.
Arledge became the 118th person in Texas state courts to have his conviction overturned, according to the University of Michigan's national registry of exonerations.
Navarro County District Attorney Lowell Thompson said authorities are searching for the person matched to the DNA and believe they know where he is. The case "will stay open until we solve it," he said in an interview.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.