Jack Johnson, boxing’s first heavyweight champ, is given posthumous pardon by President Trump

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Jack Johnson (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has issued a posthumous presidential pardon to Jack Johnson, boxing’s first African-American heavyweight champion, according to multiple reports.

Trump made the announcement at a press conference Thursday.

Johnson, who died in 1946 at age 68, held boxing’s heavyweight title from 1908 to 1915. He is recognized as one of the sport’s most dominant champions.

But in 1912, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which forbid transporting a woman across state lines for “immoral purposes.”

The charge was racially motivated. Johnson was known for having relationships, including marriages, with white women.

He was first arrested for a Mann Act violation on Oct. 18, 1912, on the grounds that his relationship with future wife Lucille Cameron was immoral because Cameron was an alleged prostitute.

Cameron, who later married Johnson, would not cooperate with prosecution, and the charge was dropped.

But less than a month later, Johnson was arrested again, this time for committing a Mann Act violation with Belle Schreiber, another alleged prostitute, and Schreiber testified against him. He was found guilty by an all-white jury in the courtroom of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who later became the Commissioner of Baseball and maintained the sport’s color barrier until his death. Johnson was found guilty in spite of the fact that the incidents used to convict him had occurred before the Mann Act was passed.

Landis sentenced Johnson to a year and a day in prison, but Johnson skipped bail, fled the country with Cameron, and lived in exile in Europe for seven years. When he returned to the U.S. in 1920, he served his jail term and was released in 1921.

Trump had been urged to pardon Johnson by “Rocky” actor Sylvester Stallone.

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