*Fans of late heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson will rally in Nevada this weekend hoping to stimulate a posthumous presidential pardon for the fighter. [See promo clip below.]
On July 4, 1910, Johnson defeated “Great White Hope” Jim Jeffries in Reno in what was billed as the “Fight of the Century.” [See second clip below.]
One hundred years later, Johnson supporters are still hoping that the legendary fighter will be pardoned for a 1913 conviction that was considered to be steeped in racism.
Five years into his world championship, Johnson was convicted on charges that he had violated the Mann Act – a convoluted law that, though modified, still exists – making it illegal to transport women from one state to another for immoral purposes.
By the time of the trial he had been married to two white women, and had several public relationships with other white females. The judge, sentencing him to a year in prison, said he was “sending a message” to black men about relationships with white women.
Johnson supporters will gather in Reno July 2-4 to celebrate his life, and to drum up support for a resolution passed by Congress last year urging President Obama to issue the pardon. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) co-sponsored the pardon resolution.
“We need to erase this act of racism which sent an American citizen to prison on a trumped-up charge,” he said.
McCain’s co-sponsor, Pete King, a Republican congressman from Long Island, said the conviction had stripped Johnson of the fruits of his success.
“He was not allowed to have the luxury of enjoying the fact that he was the leading figure in sports.”