President Donald Trump, left, and heavyweight champion boxer, Lennox Lewis, right, watch as Sylvester Stallone gestures in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 24, 2018, where Trump granted a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, boxing's first black heavyweight champion.
Trump acknowledged in a tweet last month that Stallone had contacted him about pardoning Johnson, who was champion from 1908 to 1915, and that he was strongly considering it.
"To be able to be here at the Oval office in Washington, D.C., and to experience the ultimate pardon of Jack Johnson is awesome", said Wilder, who also visited the White House as a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist.
Not to be confused with the Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman or the acoustic singer of the same name, Johnson was once deemed, by filmmaker Ken Burns, "the most notorious African-American on Earth". He died a year later in a vehicle wreck in North Carolina, speeding from a restaurant that refused him service.
Wilder credits Johnson-the first African-American heavyweight champion-for paving the path of boxing showmanship for fighters like Muhammad Ali and himself.
The white rage and resentment against Johnson fueled violence: After Johnson defeated white boxer James Jeffries in 1910, white men in NY set fire to a black tenement building, white mobs in Atlanta chased after black people, and a black man in Houston who announced the result of the fight on a street vehicle had his throat slashed by a white man. However, Johnson returned in 1920 to serve his sentence.
Former President Barack Obama considered pardoning Johnson during his administration but ultimately made a decision to pass on doing so as there were domestic violence allegations against the boxer. But he believes Trump's motives were genuine, and he's genuinely happy for Haywood and other descendants of Johnson. John McCain, [the] Arizona Republican, also has been pushing for a pardon for the boxing champion since 2004.
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In 1913, an all-white jury convicted Johnson of violating a Jim Crow-era law.
A battle that U.S. Sen.
Stallone posted on Instagram, thanking everyone for the support in getting Johnson pardoned.
"I don't think people know the significance behind this", he said.
"Posthumous pardons are rare, but not unprecedented", AP noted.
It is the third posthumous pardon ever granted, according to USA Today. In 1998, Bill Clinton pardoned Lt. Henry Ossian Flipper, who was born into slavery and always maintained his innocence after being convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer in 1881. The Justice Department says the limited resources for processing such pardons are "best dedicated to applications submitted by living persons who can truly benefit from a grant of clemency".