McCain Presses Obama to Pardon Black Boxer

Frederic J. Frommer, AP, October 17, 2009

Sen. John McCain on Friday pressed President Barack Obama to give a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, the black heavyweight boxing champion who was imprisoned nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman.

McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., noted in a letter to Obama that both houses of Congress this summer passed their resolution urging a pardon. After the vote, the lawmakers wrote to Obama in August asking him to issue the pardon.

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Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion on Dec. 26, 1908–100 years before Obama was elected the first black president. Johnson won the title after police in Australia stopped his 14-round match against the severely battered Canadian world champion, Tommy Burns.

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Johnson was convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. He fled the country after his conviction, but agreed years later to return and serve a 10-month jail sentence.

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