For over a century, Galveston’s own Jack Johnson has remained a guilty man.
His crime: violating the Mann Act in 1913 for transporting a white woman across state line, a racially motivated conviction that tarnished his reputation and followed him to his grave.
But things are looking up for the man nicknamed the Galveston Giant. Johnson won the world heavyweight title on Dec. 26, 1908, in a victory over the reigning world champion, Canadian Tommy Burns, in Sydney, Australia.
The good news: Congress passed a resolution on Dec. 9 asking President Barack Obama to grant a posthumous pardon to Johnson, who spent a year behind bars for the crime. Johnson died in a car accident in 1946.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., announced in a news release they had delivered the resolution, The Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, the House passed a companion resolution – marking the first time Congress has passed a concurrent resolution calling for an individual’s pardon since 1974.
Reid and McCain, who are lifelong boxing fans, have been introducing the resolution since 2004.
“Today, the United States Congress has once again spoken, calling on the president to finally take action and issue a posthumous pardon for Jack Johnson,” McCain said. “It’s past time for President Obama to right this injustice, restore the legacy of a great American athlete, and close a shameful chapter in our nation’s history.”
For Galveston County Commissioner Stephen D. Holmes, the news couldn’t come soon enough. Holmes and other civic and elected officials have worked tirelessly to secure a pardon Galveston’s most famous resident.
Here’s what Holmes had to say:
“I think the time is long past due for Jack Johnson to receive a posthumous pardon. The greatest athlete of his time should not continue to have his legacy tarnished by a racially motivated conviction.
“The people of Galveston have recognized the significance of Jack Johnson by honoring him with a street named on his honor, (commissioning) a statue of his likeness and a park named in his honor. I am hopeful that before President Barack Obama leaves office, he will pardon Jack Johnson.”
Let’s hope that happens soon – for the sake of Galveston history, and justice for a man who was a true giant in every sense of the word.