GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — A Texas Gulf Coast home where boxing legend Jack Johnson once lived was heavily damaged by a fire.
The blaze caused a wall in the vacant Galveston home to collapse Friday. Fire Chief Mike Wisko told The Galveston County Daily News that the building was in the process of being renovated. As part of the renovation, the home was missing an exterior wall, which allowed winds to sweep in and stir up the flames, he said.
“We found a very progressed fire, which is kind of unusual for the middle of the day in the middle of town,” Wisko told the newspaper.
Houston resident Sam Davis said the home was built in 1912 and that his grandfather purchased it years later, after Johnson had lived there. It’s not clear when the boxer resided there.
Johnson began his boxing career in Galveston, where a bronze statue of him stands in a park naming him as the Galveston Giant. In 1908, he became the first black heavyweight world champion.
President Donald Trump posthumously pardoned Johnson last May for a 1913 conviction for violating the Mann Act by traveling with his white girlfriend. That law made it illegal to transport women across state lines for “immoral” purposes.
Trump said as he announced his decision that he wanted “to correct a wrong that occurred in our history and to honor a truly legendary boxing champion.”
After Johnson’s conviction, he spent seven years as a fugitive, but eventually returned to the U.S. and turned himself in. He served about a year in federal prison and was released in 1921. He died in 1946 in an auto accident.