President Obama has made clear he’ll only consider pardons for the living, but two old amateur fighters are trying again to get one for the late Jack Johnson – the first black heavyweight champ.
“They can do it if they want to,” Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) said Monday of the push to erase Johnson’s conviction for dating and marrying white women. King and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who boxed in the Navy, will introduce another resolution to pardon Johnson, similar to the one that passed both houses last year.
But the Justice Department wouldn’t give Johnson a break, saying pardons should be reserved for people “who can benefit” from them – meaning the living. “I don’t care what the policy is,” said Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem, where Johnson once owned a nightclub that became the famed Cotton Club.
“It would be a great thing to do,” Rangel added, to pardon Johnson for his 1913 conviction by an all-white jury for transporting women across state lines for “immoral purposes.”