Pardon sought for champ Jack Johnson

Feb. 22, 2011 at 1:17 PM
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NEW YORK, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Two politicians say they'll seek a presidential pardon for the late Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, convicted in 1913 on morals charges.

President Barack Obama says he'll only consider pardons for the living, but a congressman and a senator -- both former amateur boxers -- say they'll push for an erasure of Johnson's conviction for dating and marrying white women, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday.

Johnson was married three times; all of his wives were white.

"They can do it if they want to," Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y, said.

King and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who boxed in the Navy, said they'll introduce a resolution to pardon Johnson similar to one that passed both houses last year.

The Justice Department denied that request on the grounds pardons should be reserved for people "who can benefit" from them -- meaning the living.

"I don't care what the policy is," Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said.

Johnson once owned a nightclub in Harlem that later became the famed Cotton Club.

"It would be a great thing to do," Rangel said, to pardon Johnson for his conviction by an all-white jury in 1913 for transporting women across state lines for "immoral purposes."

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