Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement today applauding President Trump for issuing a posthumous pardon of heavyweight boxing legend John Arthur “Jack” Johnson for his racially charged conviction in 1913:
“I applaud President Trump for issuing a posthumous pardon of boxing legend Jack Johnson, whose reputation was ruined by a racially charged conviction over a century ago. For years, Congress has overwhelmingly supported legislation calling on multiple U.S. presidents to right this historical wrong and restore this great athlete's legacy. President Trump's action today finally closes a shameful chapter in our nation’s history and marks a milestone that the American people can and should be proud of.”
As a life-long boxing fan, Senator McCain has been introducing legislation in the Senate urging the President to pardon Jack Johnson since 2004. A resolution urging a posthumous pardon was unanimously approved by both the House and Senate in the 114th Congress, as well as the 111th Congress, the first time since 1974 that both chambers passed a concurrent resolution calling for a posthumous pardon of an individual. Additionally, the resolution passed the House in the 110th Congress and passed the Senate in the 108th and 113th Congresses. Senators McCain and Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced a resolution in March of 2017 urging President Trump to issue a posthumous pardon of Jack Johnson.
Jack Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas on March 31, 1878 and in 1908, he became the first African American World Heavyweight Boxing Champion after defeating Tommy Burns in Australia – a title Johnson held until 1915. Johnson’s success in the boxing ring, combined with his relationship with a Caucasian woman, caused resentment. In 1913, he was wrongly convicted under the Mann Act – an anti-human trafficking statute – when he brought the woman he was dating across state lines. This racially-motivated conviction ruined his career and destroyed his reputation.