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Brower, Munford introduce resolution for pardon of Jack Johnson



Senator Greg Brower (R-Washoe County) and Assemblyman Harvey Munford (D-Clark County) have jointly sponsored a resolution (SJR12) calling upon the President to pardon the late Jack Johnson, one of boxing’s most legendary figures and a participant in one of the most important events in Nevada history.

Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion of the world, famously defended his title on July 4, 1910, in Reno in what became known as “The Fight of the Century.” In front of a crowd of more than 20,000 spectators (Reno’s population at the time was only about 17,000), Johnson defeated Jim “The Great White Hope” Jeffries.

This victory boosted Johnson’s fame the world over but also made him a target for those who objected to his flamboyant and controversial lifestyle. In 1912 he was indicted by a federal grand jury in Chicago for violating the Mann Act, which was ostensibly intended to prohibit “white slavery” but was used to prosecute Johnson because of his relationships with white women. Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury and was sentenced to one year in prison.

“It is now generally acknowledged that Jack Johnson’s prosecution was racially motivated and should never have happened,” said Brower. “Johnson was a man before his time, a legend whose career was tragically cut short and tarnished because of an unjust prosecution. It is time that his wrongful conviction be expunged, and because of our state’s special connection to the legend of Jack Johnson, the Nevada Legislature should be the first in the country to urge President Obama to issue a pardon.”

Munford remarked, “This social injustice remained in effect well past the civil rights movement. This pardon is long overdue and will help preserve a positive legacy for Jack Johnson and his family.”

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers, led by Senators John McCain and Harry Reid, has introduced a similar resolution in Congress.

SJR12 will have a hearing in the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, March 26.

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