Political News

Trump posthumously pardons heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson who died in NC

Posted May 24, 2018 1:22 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:13 a.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump on Thursday granted a posthumous pardon to boxer Jack Johnson on the advice of actor Sylvester Stallone.

"Today I've issued an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon, posthumously, to John Arthur 'Jack' Johnson ... The first African-American heavyweight champion of the world, a truly great fighter. Had a tough life," Trump said.

Trump was joined in the Oval Office by Stallone, current heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, and Johnson's great-great niece Linda Bell Haywood, among others.

Last month, Trump said he was considering the pardon.

"Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial," Trump tweeted. "Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!"

Johnson, the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion, was convicted in 1913 under the Mann Act for taking his white girlfriend across state lines for "immoral" purposes. The Mann Act purported to prevent human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution, but critics have argued it was applied inconsistently to criminalize African Americans and those with dissenting political views.

Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury in less than two hours and was imprisoned for a year. The sentence and imprisonment destroyed the boxing career of the "Galveston Giant."

Johnson died in June 1946 following an accident in which he crashed his Lincoln Zephyr in Franklinton, N.C., less than 30 miles from Raleigh.

According to reports, a white ambulance driver refused to transport Johnson, who would later die in a segregated hospital in North Carolina.