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Johnson pardon backers await Obama

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Supporters of a push to grant a posthumous pardon to U.S. boxer Jack Johnson say they are waiting for President Barack Obama to issue the decree.

Congress has adopted a resolution urging Obama to do so, and Friday Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Peter King, D-N.Y., wrote the president, urging him to pardon Johnson, an African-American boxing champion who was convicted in 1913 for dating a white woman, CNN reported.

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"It is our hope that you will be eager to agree to right this wrong and erase an act of racism that sent an American citizen to prison," the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

Johnson won the heavyweight title in 1908, and successfully defended it two years later in Reno, Nev., defeating the "Great White Hope" Jim Jeffries. The stunning win sparked race riots that saw more than 20 people killed, most of them black.

In 1913 Johnson was convicted for violating the Mann Act as Justice Department lawyers argued it was a "crime against nature" for him to have a sexual relationship with a white woman, CNN reported.

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Johnson eventually served 10 months. He died in a 1949 car crash.

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