Donald Trump Issues Rare Posthumous Pardon To Jack Johnson

Donald Trump Issues Rare Posthumous Pardon To Jack Johnson

Trump had said in April that he was considering the pardon after receiving a call from actor Sylvester Stallone.

In this 1932 file photo, boxer Jack Johnson work out in New York City.

Not to be confused with the Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman or the acoustic singer of the same name, Johnson was once deemed, by filmmaker Ken Burns, "the most notorious African-American on Earth". He spent a year in federal prison and died at age 68 in a 1946 North Carolina auto crash speeding from a restaurant that refused him service.

Johnson, the world's first African-American heavyweight boxing champion, was an indomitable figure in the early 1900s.

"I could never have whipped Johnson at my best", Jeffries later said.

Johnson fled to Europe after he was convicted but ultimately returned and served several months in prison.

The previous presidents to issue posthumous pardons were Bill Clinton in 1999 and George W. Bush in 2008. "I'm able to say that I was there when they pardoned Jack Johnson". Others have taken up the cause célèbre as well including Senators John McCain, R-Arizona, Harry Reid, R-Nevada, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Johnson was convicted for violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for "immoral" purposes, and served close to one year in prison. That led to Johnson being convicted by an all-white jury in May 1913 and getting sentenced to one year and one day in jail. "It's about time", Trump said during an Oval Office ceremony.

Jack Johnson in action against Jess Willard of the USA at Havana Cuba in 1915
Jack Johnson in action against Jess Willard of the USA at Havana Cuba in 1915

Born in 1878 in Galveston, Texas, to former slaves, Johnson overcame hard circumstances to reach the heights of the boxing world and inspired generations with his tenacity and independent spirit.

The letter said, "While it is unfortunate that this unjust conviction was not corrected during the boxer's lifetime, a posthumous pardon today represents the opportunity to reaffirm Jack Johnson's substantial contributions to our society and right this historical wrong".

"For years, Congress has overwhelmingly supported legislation calling on multiple US presidents to right this historical wrong and restore this great athlete's legacy".

"I don't know a whole lot about the kind of boxer he was because that was a long time ago, but I have seen highlights of him and you can see he was a force in [the ring]", Wilder told Yahoo Sports in a brief phone conversation.

"Posthumous pardons are rare, but not unprecedented", AP noted.

The Obama administration passed on pardoning Johnson, citing in part allegations of domestic violence against women. So far, there's been no indication that any of his pardons have gone through the standard procedure through the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney, which evaluates requests for pardons and clemency and makes recommendations to the president.

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