Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Jack Johnson. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Jack Johnson. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sports Illustrated on Jack Johnson

Tim Dahlberg, a national sports columnist for the Associated Press has written a column for Sports Illustrated arguing for a pardon to be granted to the long-dead boxing celebrity Jack Johnson, who never applied for, or sought, a pardon when he was living. We dissect (with only as much energy as we can muster) Dahlberg's "arguments" to be as follows:

1. Johnson beat Jim Jeffries in the "Fight of the Century" - We sincerely hope this needs no commentary as to relative weight as an argument for a presidential pardon

2. "Many" who cheered for Johnson were "beaten" - We cannot even imagine how this reflects in any way on his Johnson's personal worth as a pardon recipient.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Posthumous Pardon for Jack Johnson. NO.

William C. Rhoden of the New York Times asks, "Why is the United States still afraid of Jack Johnson?" The questions certainly answers itself. Most Americans have no idea whatsoever who he is referring to. The answer:
Since 2004, McCain, other lawmakers and the filmmaker Ken Burns have campaigned for an executive pardon for Johnson, who became boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, in 1908 ... In 1913, the federal government succeeded where a bevy of white fighters had failed when an all­ white jury convicted Johnson of transporting a white girlfriend across state lines, under the Mann Act, a measure designed to stop the proliferation of immigrant prostitution. He served 366 days in prison. Johnson was railroaded because he was a powerful, independent man who insisted on living his life his way, stepping outside the boundaries set for him by society. 
Now, as the Obama administration has denied / failed to act on clemency applications like few others, McCain and other law makers want a posthumous pardon to be granted to the long dead Johnson. Rhoden does not base his own support for a pardon on specific concerns about an unfair trial as he does that fact that Johnson was hated by people who hated him. And he (Rhoden) assumes that all of the hatred directed toward Johnson was based on his race - a disconcerting accusation which quickly dies in the face of even casual knowledge of Johnson's "lifestyle."

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Johnson v. O. Henry: One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Harry Reid, John McCain, William "Mo" Cowan and Rep. Peter King are back at it again. Today, they have called on the President to pardon the late boxing champion Jack Johnson.

Reid argues Johnson was a "legendary competitor who defined an era of American boxing and raised the bar for all American athletics." McCain says the pardon would be a way of "celebrating [Johnson's] legacy of athletic greatness and historical significance.” Cowan says Johnson was "one of the great African-American athletes." King says Johnson was a "trailblazer and a legend."

But, more than all that, the members of Congress argue Johnson was "unjustly tarnished by a racially-motivated criminal conviction" and a posthumous pardon would be a "small, meaningful step toward acknowledging his mistreatment before the law." In addition to being the victim of "racial persecution," Jackson was convicted via "unjust laws."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Jack Johnson, Again.

The New York Times reports that Gary Wurst, a family member of James J. Jeffries, says a pardon for the long dead boxing legend Jack Johnson "would rectify the wrongs of the past." Jeffries, of course, was the man Johnson beat in what was labeled the "the Fight of the Century."  The Times reports that Mr. Wurst and "several Johnson descendants" gathered Friday "at a Reno gala marking the centennial of the July 4, 1910, bout and shook hands on stage." It is also noted that supporters of the pardon "say Johnson’s conviction for transporting a woman across state lines for immoral purposes was steeped in the racism of the time."

PardonPower hopes that, should President Obama ever decide to grant a pardon (he has yet to do so), that he will give preference to the real suffering and disability of living clemency applicants. When he was alive, Mr. Johnson never sought a pardon from the president and - given what we know about him - one wonders what he would really think of all of this effort - supposedly on his behalf - today. One need not be a Sherlock Holmes to discover Johnson was hardly a role model for today's African American youth - along the lines of, say, Preston King. His (Johnson's) primary contribution to society appears to be his enthusiasm for his own performance in the boxing ring where, of course, he also lined his own pockets in cash suitable for a life-time of expensive automobiles and reckless driving, expensive clothes and exotic jewelry, broken marriages, spousal abuse, alcohol, prostitutes and stupendous financial irresponsibility.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Watch List: Fugitive Jack Johnson Wanted Early Release

The Associated Press reports that research in the National Archives has uncovered the fact that the long-dead boxing great Jack Johnson, who was convicted under the Mann Act, wrote a letter a 1921 letter to the U.S. Attorney General saying the prosecutor in his trial made "flagrant appeals to passion, race hatred and moral infamies." It is now claimed that Johnson sought parole during his 10-month sentence (even though he was once a fugitive from justice) and that he actually filed an application with the president seeking clemency. The AP provocatively writes:
Now, under a black president and black attorney general, the Justice Department is against pardoning Johnson. 
... which is much, much more exciting to read than:
Now, under a black president and black attorney general, the Justice Department is following the policy of almost every other Justice Department and attempting to focus on the applications of living persons, who are suffering disabilities, more than symbolic congressional politics on behalf of the dead.
In 1921, it appears that the Associated Press reported that Attorney General Daugherty (perhaps one of the most corrupt persons to serve in that position in history) was "considering" a pardon for the boxer "in time for a heavyweight fight." But, today, the primary arguments for this useless exercise remain "appeals to passion and race hatred." Indeed, the AP notes what is apparently Johnson's primary virtue - namely, that he was "hated by many white Americans [especially] after retaining his title by defeating white boxer Jim Jeffries." The word "especially" is a surrogate for a dozen other reasons not to be so fond of the Jack Johnson, including alcoholism, whore mongering, spousal abuse, reckless driving, etc. See full article here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Jack Johnson Pardon: Reporting? or Mere Advertising?

PardonPower has submitted an editorial to the Washington Post re the potential posthumous pardon of boxing legend Jack Johnson. In our view, the need for the editorial could not be over estimated. For two weeks now, the Nation's newspapers have been flooded with articles on the topic, articles which, due to a lack of research or anything like an ounce of investigative reporting, amount to little more than PR (if not outright advocacy) for the pardon.

Readers can see still yet another such article in today's Los Angeles Times (full text here). The piece reads like three dozen others you can find elsewhere ... "Johnson was black. He dated white women and was charged by an all-white jury for violating the Mann Act. He was a rebel and white people hated him for it. Now, we are past all of that and celebrities and politicians of all colors and parties want him pardoned." Occaisionally, a writer will cast doubt on John McCain's support of the pardon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mr. President, Please KO Jack Johnson

 PardonPower statement regarding the potential posthumous pardon of boxer Jack Johnson:
At this point a posthumous pardon would further trivialize the significance of a power that should, instead, be both profound and relevant. Instead of engaging in the gratuitous, symbolic politics of the legislature, the president should reserve the pardon power to address the real problems of the thousands of living people whose applications are sitting in the Department of Justice and the Office of the Pardon Attorney, waiting (in many instances for YEARS) for some president to act.
Background: In recent years, the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) in the Department of Justice (DOJ) has received a record number of applications for pardons and commutations of sentence. As a result, there also emerged a record number of applications which were simply not addressed (acted upon). Many such applications have been sitting around in the DOJ for years! To date, however, President Obama has not granted a single pardon or commutation of sentence.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

DOJ Sucker Punches Johnson Pardon Bid

 The Associated Press is reporting that the Justice Department is officially "not supporting" a bi-partisan bid to obtain a symbolic pardon for Jack Johnson, the long dead, African-American heavyweight boxing champion who was charged with violating the Mann Act many, many years ago.
U.S. pardon attorney, Ronald L. Rodgers (whose name should appear in the Nation's newspapers much more often than it does) has informed Republican Representative Peter King (in a letter ) that the Department's general policy is not to process so-called posthumous pardon requests. Instead (the letter suggests) the Department's resources for pardon requests are best used on behalf of people "who can truly benefit" from them. PardonPower could not agree more and looks forward to hearing of many grants of clemency recommended by Mr. Rodgers! See AP story here.

See PardonPower's position this topic at the following links:
Mr. President, Please KO Jack Johnson
The Jack Johnson Pardon: Reporting? or Mere Advertising?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Watch List: Johnson. Again.

PardonPower has retained Jack Johnson's name on the Pardon Watch List and the Associated Press Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) still "wants a presidential pardon" for the nation's first black heavyweight boxing champion. Says McCain, "I've been a very big fight fan, I was a mediocre boxer myself. I had admired Jack Johnson's prowess in the ring. And the more I found out about him, the more I thought a grave injustice was done." Johnson (who died in 1946) was convicted of violating the Mann Act back in 1913. On Wednesday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and filmmaker Ken Burns will hold a press conference announcing a "resolution" urging a presidential pardon for Johnson. See story here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Presidents, Pardons and Athletes

In honor of Barry Bonds, a repost from July of 2008:

I recently chatted with an enthusiastic and well-informed reporter about professional athletes and the pardon power. The interview was, of course, prompted by speculation regarding baseball's Roger Clemens (who has not been convicted of anything) and former track and field star Marion Jones (who received a 6-month sentence for lying to federal investigators). There is also a long-standing call for the pardon of deceased boxer Jack Johnson (who was charged with violating the Mann Act). The discussion gave me a chance to reflect on my memories of athletes and the pardon power. Having personally gone through the clemency warrants of thousands of individuals from 1789 to 2001, word by word, those memories were actually more distinct than I might have guessed.

Athletic prowess seemed to first show up in warrants in the 1800s. My memory is that they involved private foot-races, where individuals placed bets, or illegal fights of some sort. In some instances such events were actually rigged, so fraud was piled on top of gambling in prosecutions. My memory is also that these offenses were generally committed in the District of the Columbia, where the president exercises the pardon power much like a state governor.

The first appearance of more wide-scale, organized athletic events that I recall was during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. It stood out in my mind because Roosevelt was a boxing fan and the pardons were for a couple of boxers. Roosevelt also pardoned John L. Lennon, the nephew of boxing legend John L. Sullivan (who lobbied for the grant personally and without even an ounce of criticism from the media). I am not certain if that is a comment on Roosevelt, Sullivan or the media of the day.

Since the good old days, the stories of numerous athletes have appeared in clemency applications and warrants. Racing greats Junior Johnson (NASCAR legend) and Rick Hendrick (the "King of NASCAR") have received presidential pardons. Stunt pilot Laura H. Ingalls tried to secure a pardon for years, but never succeeded. She had been attached to the Nazis, so it was a tough sell. Joe Don Looney was a standout at the University of Oklahoma and an interesting character in the National Football league. He was pardoned for drug possession. Charles "Tex" Harrison was an All-American at North Carolina Central University and became a Harlem Globetrotter. Eventually he became the coach of the Globetrotters. This blog has also reported on former Kansas City Royals star Willie Mays Aikens who had pardon applications declined by both Clinton and Bush. Of course, there are others that are around the edges of the world of athletics - George Steinbrenner (who made illegal contributions to the campaign of Richard Nixon), Jimmy "the Greek" (pardoned by Gerald Ford), etc.

Do professional athletes enjoy any kind of "advantage" in the pardon process? Our data on pardons are so thin, it is not possible to render anything close to a scientific answer. But it would seem reasonable enough to theorize (if not assume) that professional athletes enjoy - if anything - the potential "advantage" of access. It is an advantage, of course, that is shared with all persons who are public figures. Granted, fame can be a double-edged sword in this circumstance. It can bring greater scrutiny and greater criticism.

Nonetheless, it would probably be easier for Roger Clemens or filmmaker Ken Burns (who supports the pardon for Jack Johnson) to walk into the White House, or the office of anyone else in the administration, than it would be for any of the seemingly nameless, faceless thousands that have applications waiting in the Office of the Pardon Attorney. And, if the Clinton pardon scandals taught us anything at all, it is that access can be terribly important. It does not necessarily determine the outcome (there were some who had access who failed), because there are certainly other constraints (both formal and informal). But it is apparent that access can, in some circumstances, win the day.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Dull Blade in Toledo

The Toledo Blade takes the position that U.S. Pardon Attorney Ronald Rodgers "missed the point" earlier this month when he announced that, as a matter of general policy, the Department of Justice will not entertain pardon applications filed on behalf of people who are dead. The Office has, in recent years, been dealing with record numbers of new and pending clemency applications, so Rodgers' position actually reeks with the pungent stench of both fairness and common sense.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Intersection of Mercy and Athleticism

I recently chatted with an enthusiastic and well-informed reporter about professional athletes and the pardon power. The interview was, of course, prompted by speculation regarding baseball's Roger Clemens (who has not been convicted of anything) and former track and field star Marion Jones (who received a 6-month sentence for lying to federal investigators). There is also a long-standing call for the pardon of deceased boxer Jack Johnson (who was charged with violating the Mann Act). The discussion gave me a chance to reflect on my memories of athletes and the pardon power. Having personally gone through the clemency warrants of thousands of individuals from 1789 to 2001, word by word, those memories were actually more distinct than I might have guessed.

Athletic prowess seemed to first show up in warrants in the 1800s. My memory is that they involved private foot-races, where individuals placed bets, or illegal fights of some sort. In some instances such events were actually rigged, so fraud was piled on top of gambling in prosecutions. My memory is also that these offenses were generally committed in the District of the Columbia, where the president exercises the pardon power much like a state governor.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Watch List: A Not So Impressive Plea

In the New York Times, Diane McWhortier, an author, makes a not-so-subtle (or impressive) argument that Chris McNair is deserving of federal executive clemency - a presidential pardon. McNair was convicted on 11 federal counts of bribery and conspiracy and received a 5-year prison sentence. He was also ordered to make restitution of more than $800,000 for the bribes.

Why is he deserving of clemency?

McWhortier argues McNair is a "symbol of the civil rights struggle" because, almost a half a century ago, his 11-year-old daughter died when the KKK bombed a Baptist Church. Says McWhortier:
Mr. McNair’s fall from grace violates the redemption narrative on which our national mythology has thrived since Lincoln consecrated the Civil War dead at Gettysburg: the belief that our tragic racial past can be converted into “a new birth of freedom.”
Or, for those less philosophical:
The pressures of destiny can sometimes cause presumptive saviors to balk or to stumble. 
For those readers still scratching their heads, McWhortier goes on to explain that McNair's legal defense sounded "too implausible" in her own mind, "to be totally untrue" in his own mind. And she claims that,"however dubious the ethics" of McNair's "relationships" were, "they were not without some socially redeeming benefit" because they "stormed one of the most resistant citadels of segregation: the dining-room table." This is all not to mention a possible "unconscious motive" for Mr. McNair’s "guiltless if not shameless acceptance of the contractors’ favors: The city owed him a debt." And, just when you might think a shabby argument could not get worse, McWhortier writes:
On the matter of clemency our first black president is not likely to be an easy touch. Mr. Obama has declined, for example, to issue a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, the black boxing champion subjected to government prosecution a century ago because of his affairs with white women — notwithstanding that the Congressional resolution urging the pardon (passed in 2009 and re-introduced this past May) was sponsored by Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York.
God help Mr. McNair if his character and reputation, and suitability for pardon, are no better than the long-dead, whore-mongering, wife beating Jack Johnson! See editorial here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

ESPN on a Possible Johnson Pardon

ESPN reports lawmakers "are going another round in their fight to get a posthumous presidential pardon for the world's first black heavyweight champion, who was imprisoned nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman."  The startling new development in the Jack Johnson saga which has led to this new effort?

Nothing.

Johnson is still long dead. He is still someone who never even asked for -  much less applied for - a presidential pardon. He is still someone who would very likely mock the idea of being pardoned. He is still highly questionable as anything like a decent role model for the young people of our Nation (of any color). He is still best remembered as a disorderly, reckless driving, heavy-drinking, wife-beating, financially irresponsible whore monger who, apparently, had few, if any, serious concerns in life beyond satisfying physical pleasures and lining the pockets of his expensive outfits with loads of cash. A world of maudlin self-righteous, self-serving, "symbolic" and opportunistic crooning by politicians and sports fans about racial discrimination and the bigotry of the early 1900s can never really change any of that.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Watch List: Johnson Pardon Now "Unlikely"

The Reno News and Review reports that a posthumous pardon for boxing legend Jack Johnson is now "unlikely." Like most articles of its type, this one says very little at all about the merit of Johnson as a dead clemency applicant. Instead there is the usual distraction with the colorful story / life of the champ. In a spectacular salute to peculiarity, however, the piece says the Justice Department "delivered a shocker by recommending against the pardon." Most students of the pardon power are well aware of the fact that posthumous pardons have been opposed by almost every Justice Department in the history of the Nation. That is exactly why the first one never even occurred until the administration of Bill Clinton. See story here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Watch List: Tiger Woods Making it Tough for Johnson?

Jack Johnson was an African American who broke racial barriers to rise to the top of his sport, all the while cavorting with call-girls, whores and prostitutes, most of whom were white. He has been dead for many, many years now. But the Associated Press reports Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Rep. Peter King (R-New York) have recently written a letter to President Obama informing him that they are "sorely disappointed" that the U.S. Pardon Attorney, Ronald L. Rodgers (Department of Justice), appears resistant to the idea of granting pardons to dead people as a matter of policy. That is to say, Mr. Rodgers has taken the reasonable position, the one held by almost every pardon attorney, deputy attorney general, attorney general and president since the Republic began. McCain and King say the president should "concur" with Congress and pardon Johnson "swiftly." See story here


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Editorial: Johnson Pardon a Sure Thing!

The last few fiscal years have featured record numbers of applications for pardons and commutation of sentence in the Department of Justice, and more than a few denials. Yet, this editorial, appearing in the Denver Post says that Barak Obama will "surely" grant a pardon to the long-dead boxer Jack Johnson by next year! The editorial notes that such a pardon "won't end racism" (duh!) and "it won't erase that part of our nation's shameful past" (or Johnson's either, for that matter). But, says the editorial, "it rights a wrong" (as would the more proper action, a presidential proclamation) and would mark "just how far we've come" (Hardly. It would only mark how irrelevant and un-important a once significant presidential power has become).

Monday, July 6, 2009

Times Calls for Further Trivialization of Pardon Power

Overlooking the fact that the President has yet to grant a single pardon or commutation of sentence, the New York Times is calling for the record to be "set right" in the case of legendary boxer Jack Johnson. Johnson's critics are summarily dismissed as "racists" and "hypocrites" and proponents of "Jim Crow lynchings" in a "world of bigotry" etc.

What a grand thing this stand would be for the Times, but for the fact that Johnson is long dead (no fear of recidivism here) and his "pardon" would simply be the very worst sort of symbolic politics (great for self-righteous credit claiming members of Congress and of very little value in the real world - where Obama's clemency program has yet to show its face and is among the slowest to materialize in American history). Apparently, it is not enough that Congress infects its own resolution- and lawmaking-power with meaningless target group re-election candy. No, National Frisbee Day, National Boating Day, National Pi Day and Blame Someone Else Day are just not enough.

Friday, September 26, 2008

In the Midst of Financial Collapse ... A Passionate Call for Symbolic Mercy

The Associated Press reports that the House of Representatives took time out today to recommend (by voice vote) that Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, "should be granted a presidential pardon for a racially motivated conviction 75 years ago that blemished his reputation and hurt his boxing career." Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act in 1913 and fled the country. He then returned and served serve nearly a year at Leavenworth. But, afterward, he failed to regain his title. Rep Peter King (R-NY) authored the resolution and says, "[Johnson] was a victim of the times and we need to set the record straight — clear his name — and recognize him for his groundbreaking contribution to the sport of boxing." Over in the U.S. Senate Republican presidential nominee John McCain (AZ) has a companion resolution.

Other dead people deserving mercy: O Henry, Ellis H. Parker, Samuel Mudd, Marcus Garvey ... See story here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Watch List: Very Slight Modification

Over the weekend, the New York Times made a moderate splash with a list of 13 names of individuals who have and have not applied for pardons or commutations of sentence with President Bush (see story here). PardonPower finds it worthy of note that 10 of the 13 names have been on our Pardon Watch List (below) for many months. But, given what we now know, we are inclined to add the name of Randy Cunningham to our list. The Times also discussed Jack Abranoff and Bob Ney (who have not filed applications), but we are not so inclined to add them.

Presidential Pardon Watch List - P.S. Ruckman, Jr.

- Clarence Aaron (drug dealing)
- Willie Mays Aikens (sold drugs to an undercover agent) X - released (6/5/08)
- Conrad Black (fraud and obstruction of justice)
- Duane Chapman (deprivation of liberty) X - won extradition battle (11/6/07)
- Roger Clemens
- Jose Compean (illegal arrest of an alien)
- Randy Cunningham Application in.
- Edwin Edwards (convicted of racketeering) Application in.
- John Forte (cocaine)
- Gilmer Hernandez (civil rights violation)
- Lawrence Hutchins (soldier, murder X - sentence commuted to 11 years (5/9/08)
- Ron Isley (tax evasion)
- Jack Johnson (violated the Mann Act)
- Marion Jones (steroids) Application in.
- Scooter Libby (perjury, obstruction of justice)
- John Walker Lindh
(terrorism) Application in.
- David H. McNab (smuggling and money laundering)
-
Michael Milken
(securities and reporting violations) Application in.
- Julius Nasso (conspiracy, extortion)
- O.Henry (embezzling bank funds)
- Lance Persson
(drug dealing)
- Leonard Pielter
(double murder of FBI agents)
- The Pig (tasting so good) X - White House spokesman says "no" (11/18/07)
- Jonathan Pollard (spying on behalf of Israel X - President says "no change" (5/13/08)
- Ignacio Ramos
(illegal arrest of an alien)
- George Ryan (corruption)
- Richard Scrushy (corruption)
- Don Siegelman
(corruption)
- Jeffrey Skilling (fraud, conspiracy, insider trading)
- Martha Stewart (obstruction of justice)
- Michael Vick (conspiracy to operate interstate dogfighting ring)
- Robert Steve Vukelic (knowledge of a felony, failing to reporting it to authorities)
- Mark E. Whitacre (wire fraud, tax fraud, and money laundering)
- Jason Charles Yeager (methamphetamine charges)

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