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Senate urges Obama to pardon boxer Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson. Photo: Library of Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate has voted to urge President Barack Obama to pardon posthumously the first black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, who was convicted a century ago of accompanying a white woman across state lines.

Johnson won the title in 1908 and two years later defended it against a white man, Jim Jeffries, sparking race riots. In 1913, an all-white jury convicted Johnson of crossing state lines with a white woman for "immoral purposes." He was sentenced to a year in prison.

Relatives and supporters have long campaigned for Johnson's exoneration.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Arizona Republican John McCain say that a pardon would restore Johnson's name and correct a historical wrong.

The Senate approved the measure by voice vote late Wednesday.

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