April 22, 2009

Pardon sought for champion Jack Johnson

A relative of the late U.S. boxing great Jack Johnson says she hopes a new resolution in Congress will restore the controversial champ's reputation.

The measure introduced by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would urge President Barack Obama to grant a pardon to Johnson, who was convicted in the early 20th Century of violating the Mann Act.

The conviction stemmed from Johnson, who was African-American, having a relationship with a white woman. Prosecutors considered the situation to be in violation of the federal law prohibiting transportation of women across state lines for sexual purposes.

CNN said Wednesday that Linda Haywood "“ Johnson was her great uncle "“ worked with McCain on the resolution that she sees as righting a wrongful conviction that was steeped in the racial politics of the era.

Johnson, who was as flamboyant as he was pugnacious in the ring, stunned the white-dominated sports world in the United States by winning the heavyweight title in 1908 and then defending it against Great White Hope Jim Jeffries two years later in a bout that touched off race riots that left 20 people dead.

Johnson eventually spent 20 months in prison and died in a car wreck in 1946.