Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pardon sought for first black heavyweight champ

WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain wants a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson, who became the nation's first black heavyweight boxing champion 100 years before Barack Obama became its first black president.

McCain feels Johnson was wronged by a 1913 conviction of violating the Mann Act by having a consensual relationship with a white woman — a conviction widely seen as racially motivated.
"I've been a very big fight fan, I was a mediocre boxer myself," McCain, R-Ariz., said in a telephone interview. "I had admired Jack Johnson's prowess in the ring. And the more I found out about him, the more I thought a grave injustice was done."

On Wednesday, McCain will join Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., filmmaker Ken Burns and Johnson's great niece, Linda Haywood, at a Capitol Hill news conference to unveil a resolution urging a presidential pardon for Johnson. Similar legislation offered in 2004 and last year failed to pass both chambers of Congress.

King, a recreational boxer, said a pardon would "remove a cloud that's been over the American sporting scene ever since (Johnson) was convicted on these trumped-up charges."
"I think the moment is now," King said.
Presidential pardons for the dead are rare.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton pardoned Lt. Henry O. Flipper, the Army's first black commissioned officer, who was drummed out of the military in 1882 after white officers accused him of embezzling $3,800 in commissary funds. Last year, President George W. Bush pardoned Charles Winters, who was convicted of violating the Neutrality Act when he conspired in 1948 to export aircraft to a foreign country in aid of Israel.

The Justice Department and the White House declined to comment on this latest Johnson pardon effort.
Complete story at source>>>

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