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Trump Pardons First Black Heavyweight Boxing Champion Jack Johnson

25 May 2018

Seven decades later, Jack Johnson remains a towering figure in both sports and civil rights, an icon who turns up in rap songs, comic books and a gag line from Ron Burgundy in "Anchorman".

The president noted that bipartisan requests for the pardon for Johnson had been made for years, but that despite that, no previous president had been willing to sign one.

Wilder says he understands the irony of Johnson - who died in a 1946 vehicle crash - being pardoned by a president who some have called racist himself.

The Obama administration passed on pardoning Johnson, citing in part allegations of domestic violence against women.

Johnson, who died in 1946, was convicted by an all-white jury in Chicago in 1913 of violating the Jim Crow-era White-Slave Traffic Act, that was meant to prevent and punish human trafficking and was used on Johnson for traveling with a white woman.

The conviction was transparently a punishment for Johnson's relationships with white women; he repeatedly married white women, in addition to his white girlfriends. She had worked as a prostitute but was in a relationship with Johnson, according to the Times.

Trump signed a full posthumous pardon for Johnson while flanked by boxing royalty including Lennox Lewis, Deontay Wilder and Rocky himself, actor Sylvester Stallone. Stallone specifically contacted Trump, his friend, to try and achieve the pardon that came on Thursday. Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had also called for a pardon.

Donald Trump pardons black boxing champion Jack Johnson
Rocky Goes To The White House: Stallone Thanks Trump For Pardoning Boxer Jack Johnson

The move was celebrated by many of boxing's biggest names - "It's about time", wrote George Foreman, the former heavyweight champion - and by legislators who had championed the cause.

"I feel like my family's part is my connection to boxing history", said Cutchins past year.

The American reigned as world champion from December 1908 to April 1915 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time. "President Trump's action today finally closes a shameful chapter in our nation's history and marks a milestone that the American people can and should be proud of". Johnson served almost a year in prison from 1920-21 on the federal charge.

"It's about time", he said to applause. "Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!"

Johnson's penchant for dating white women led to a lot of trouble for the famed boxer.

Stallone and former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis joined Trump for the ceremony.

"For years, Congress has overwhelmingly supported legislation calling on multiple USA presidents to right this historical wrong and restore this great athlete's legacy", McCain wrote. PIX11 News was the first major news outlet to contact Johnson's family about an effort to secure a pardon.

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Trump Pardons First Black Heavyweight Boxing Champion Jack Johnson