King to keep pressing for boxer's pardonBy TOM BRUNE
February 22, 2011
WASHINGTON - Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Monday he won't give up the fight for a posthumous presidential pardon for boxer Jack Johnson, a flamboyant black pugilist convicted in 1913 on racially trumped-up charges.
Last year, Congress by voice vote passed the resolution sponsored by King and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urging President Barack Obama to act on the clemency request.
But Obama didn't pardon Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world who died in a car accident in 1946.
"I was really surprised," said King, who added that he had hoped Obama would see the symbolism of the first black president granting a pardon to the first black world champion.
He also said there'd be symbolism in Obama acting on the resolution of two Republicans, including McCain, his rival for the presidency in 2008.
The White House has not commented on the pardon.
The Justice Department, which reviews pardons, sent a letter saying they concentrate on clemency actions for people who are living, King said.
But King has not given up.
"I spoke to McCain and we're going to do it again," said King, whose bill will be introduced next week. "I'm very confident it will pass again."
Backers include Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan) and Johnson's great-great niece Linda Haywood of Chicago.
In 1910, Johnson beat Jim Jeffries, dubbed the "great white hope," in what was called the "battle of the century."
But Johnson's success and relationships with white women led to his conviction in 1913 under the Mann Act. It barred taking white women across state lines for "prostitution and debauchery."