Thursday, August 7, 2008

California: A Pardon Revisited

This article, from Buffalo's Artvoice, reminds those that need reminding that country music legend Merle Haggard was once the recipient of executive clemency. In 1972, then California Governor Ronald Reagan granted a pardon to Haggard, who spent time in San Quenton for burglary. The article notes:

In a famous story from country music lore, the first time Merle Haggard met Johnny Cash he told the Man in Black how seeing him play a New Year’s Day concert in 1958 inside the walls of San Quentin prison left him a changed man. Cash admitted he didn’t recall Haggard being on the bill. Haggard replied, “I wasn’t in the show, I was in the audience.”
In a 2004 interview with CMT (here), Haggard said the pardon was a complete surprise:

Absolutely. They kept it under wraps. There was some effort on my brother-in-law's part, who was part of the Reagan team when he was on the West Coast, and my brother-in-law was friends with [Reagan adviser] Michael Deaver and people who were in a position to examine my case, and they found that I was improperly convicted and had no representation because I was poor and things of that nature, and ... 12 Supreme Court judges and Ronald Reagan -- the governor -- found it right to pardon me. God, it meant everything.
Haggard returned the favor by playing at a Reagan Ranch party and calling for Reagan's image to appear on Mount Rushmore! Interestingly, the Artvoice article notes Haggard was out "in late 2007 stumping for Hillary Clinton, even writing a song for her." PardonPower apologizes for failing to add Haggard's name to the list of those supporting Clinton who had been pardoned (see post here).

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