According to a report Thursday on ProMMAInsider.com, there has been a renewed effort by lawmakers seeking a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson. The first black heavyweight champion was thrown in prison one hundred years ago for the crime of having romantic relationships with white women.
Representative Peter King, R-N.Y., was joined by Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., William Cowan, D-Mass, and Harry Reid, D-Nev., in reintroducing a resolution seeking to have President Barack Obama pardon Jack Johnson because he was the victim of a racially motivated conviction.
“Jack Johnson was a legendary competitor who defined an era of American boxing and raised the bar for all American athletics,” said Reid. “Johnson’s memory was unjustly tarnished by a racially motivated criminal conviction, and it is now time to recast his legacy.”
Back in 2009 another such resolution passed both houses of Congress, but the President failed to act on it. The White House has so far declined to comment on the situation. However, the Justice Department has said that it typically does not process pardon requests filed posthumously.
It may sound comical now, but then, it was a serious issue. Jack Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act which made it a crime to take a lady across state lines for immoral purposes.
Back then, Jackson was despised by many white Americans. His defense of his title over Jim Jeffries did little to endear him to them. His victory in 1910′s “Fight of the Century” angered whites, leading to an outburst of race riots throughout the country.
It was a few years later that he was charged with the violation. At first they focused on his relationship with Lucille Cameron, but she refused to cooperate, eventually marrying Johnson. They then went after a former mistress, getting her to testify that Johnson had paid for her train ticket from Pennsylvania to Illinois. Since the trip was for immoral purposes, they had their crime. The all-white jury convicted the boxer, but he skipped bail, fleeing the country. Several years later he would return to serve out his sentence.