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Reid pushes for pardon of first black heavyweight boxing champ

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Updated: 4/04/2013 4:44 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- An effort is underway in Washington to pardon the world's first black heavyweight boxing champion. Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a former boxer himself, is joining several other lawmakers in trying to get Jack Johnson a posthumous pardon.

Johnson became the first black heavyweight champ in 1908, but his career took a dive after being convicted in 1913 under the Mann Act, which was passed to prevent prostitution, human trafficking, and "immorality."

Many have argued the charges were racially motivated because Johnson was dating and eventually married a white woman.

Congress has passed several resolutions to issue a posthumous pardon in the past, but no president has granted one.

Reid (D-NV), John McCain (R-AZ), William “Mo” Cowan (D-MA) and U.S. Representative Peter King (R-NY) this week introduced a resolution to African American heavyweight boxing champion, John Arthur “Jack” Johnson.

“Jack Johnson is a trailblazer and a legend, whose boxing career was cut short due to unjust laws and racial persecution,” said Congressman King. “I urge the Congress and the President to do the right thing and take the final step and grant his pardon. I am proud to stand with Senator McCain once again to introduce this legislation.”

Jack Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas on March 31, 1878. In 1908, he became the first African American World Heavyweight Boxing Champion after defeating Tommy Burns in Australia, Johnson held his title Johnson held until 1915. Prompted by his success in the boxing ring and his relationship with a Caucasian woman, Jack Johnson was wrongly convicted under the Mann Act when he brought the woman he was dating across state lines.

“Jack Johnson was a legendary competitor who defined an era of American boxing and raised the bar for all American athletics,” said Senator Reid. “Johnson’s memory was unjustly tarnished by a racially-motivated criminal conviction, and it is now time to recast his legacy. I am pleased to work with my colleagues in both the Senate and House to formally restore Johnson’s name to the full stature and dignity he deserves.”

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