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Meeks, King, Booker, and McCain Reintroduce Resolution Calling for Posthumous Pardon for Boxing Great Jack Johnson

March 2, 2017
Press Release

Meeks, King, Booker, and McCain Reintroduce Resolution Calling for Posthumous Pardon for Boxing Great Jack Johnson

Washington, D.C.—Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) this week reintroduced a resolution in the House of Representatives urging the President to issue a posthumous pardon to John Arthur “Jack” Johnson. Johnson was the first African American heavyweight-boxing champion but in 1913, he was charged under the Mann Act for his interracial relationship with a white woman, tarnishing his name and ruining his career. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced a companion bill in the Senate this week. Regarding the resolution’s reintroduction, Congressman Meeks issued the following statement:

“John Arthur 'Jack' Johnson’s memory continues to inspire us. But as we fondly remember him and his unbreakable courage, we are also reminded of his racially charged conviction. Jack Johnson faced racism throughout his career and in his personal life. He confronted the status quo and forever changed the sport of boxing by becoming the first African American Heavyweight Boxing Champion. In doing so, Johnson inspired generations of boxers and African Americans and paved the way for greats like Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali.  As we honor Jack Johnson and continue to be motivated by his ground-breaking accomplishments, we have to ensure that his memory is not tarnished by a racially-motivated charge that was unfairly leveled against him based solely on who he loved.

"I am proud to once again stand in Jack Johnson’s corner with Representatives Peter King, Senator John McCain, and Senator Cory Booker as we continue the fight to restore Jack Johnson’s reputation. I hope that finally, this legislation becomes a reality; it is about time we clear Jack Johnson’s good name and right an error from our nation’s past."


With his father being a professional boxer, Congressman Meeks has loved boxing his entire life. In fact, Rep. Meeks knew Muhammad Ali personally and even used to drive him around New York City. Thus, Rep. Meeks has a deep appreciation for boxing and all of those who made the sport what it is today.

The 111th and 114th Congresses unanimously passed similar concurrent resolutions calling for the posthumous pardon of Jack Johnson. This marked the first time since 1974 that such a resolution was unanimously approved by both houses of Congress.