Lawmakers Seek Pardon for Boxing Champ Jack Johnson

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers seeking a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson, the world’s first black heavyweight boxing champion imprisoned a century ago for his romantic relationships with white women, renewed their efforts on Tuesday.

    Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., John McCain, R-Ariz., and William “Mo” Cowan, D-Mass., joined Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., to reintroduce a resolution urging President Barack Obama to pardon Johnson because he was wronged by 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.”

    A similar resolution passed both houses of Congress in 2009, but Obama did not act on it. The Justice Department has told the bill’s backers its general policy is not to process posthumous pardon requests. The White House declined to comment Tuesday on the measure.

    Johnson, a native of Galveston, Texas, was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes.

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