Pardon Sought for Boxing Legend Jack Johnson
Sens. Harry Reid and John McCain spearhead effort for Jack Johnson
By Kyle Roerink – Las Vegas Sun
Jack Johnson, born in Galveston,Texas, became the first black to win the heavyweight boxing title. He had approximately 113 bouts, losing only six. Johnson was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954.
Sens. Harry Reid and John McCain are calling for President Barack Obama to clear the record of the first black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, with a pardon.
Their bipartisan move, co-sponsored in a resolution, is the latest attempt by members of Congress to absolve the boxing legend of a crime that’s now considered by many to have been a racially motivated attack on Johnson — the boxing legend who held the title for seven years until 1915.
The two lawmakers submitted an amendment in an education reform bill that asks the president to absolve Johnson’s charge as a human trafficker under the Mann Act, a 1910 law that tried to clamp down on prostitution. The law prohibited transporting women across state lines for “immoral purposes.”
Federal marshals arrested Johnson after he crossed the Illinois state border with his white girlfriend, accusing him of human trafficking. The incident tarnished Johnson’s career and sent him to jail for one year.
For Reid, a Nevada Democrat and former boxer, the call to clear Johnson’s name goes beyond his love of the sport. His actions are the latest in a string of comments he’s made on race in America. Recently, he’s called on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to revoke the Washington Redskins franchise name in light of its racial undertones toward American Indians. He was also among the many to call for the removal of the confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds in the wake of the racially charged slayings of nine church-goers in Charleston.
“Johnson was a true champion whose name was tarnished by an unjust and racially motivated criminal conviction,” Reid said in a statement on Tuesday. “Now is the time to restore his legacy. Jack Johnson deserves to be remembered for his incredible career, not for the racism that unfairly sent him to prison.”
McCain, the senior Republican senator from Arizona and longtime boxing fan, has tried to win a presidential pardon for Johnson since 2004, sponsoring various resolutions that urge a pardon.
Unlike bills, resolutions are measures that recognize, people, policies or priorities for lawmakers. Only the president can issue a pardon. President Obama has issued at least 64 pardons since taking office in 2008.