Trump pardons late boxer Jack Johnson

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Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion. Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion.
Portrait of American boxer, heavyweight champion and inventor Jack Johnson (1878 - 1946) smoking a cigar, circa 1930s. (Source: LASS/Hulton Archives/Getty Image) Portrait of American boxer, heavyweight champion and inventor Jack Johnson (1878 - 1946) smoking a cigar, circa 1930s. (Source: LASS/Hulton Archives/Getty Image)
(Source: @MeghanMcCain via Twitter) (Source: @MeghanMcCain via Twitter)

(CNN) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday granted a posthumous pardon to boxer Jack Johnson on the advice of actor Sylvester Stallone.

"Today I've issued an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon, posthumously, to John Arthur 'Jack' Johnson ... The first African-American heavyweight champion of the world, a truly great fighter. Had a tough life," Trump said.

Trump was joined in the Oval Office by Stallone, current heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, and Johnson's great-great niece Linda Bell Haywood, among others.

"We have done something today that was very important, because we righted a wrong," Trump said. "Jack Johnson was not treated fairly, and we have corrected that, and I'm very honored to have done it."

[WATCH: President's remarks on Jack Johnson]

President Trump's action today finally closes a shameful chapter in our nation’s history and marks a milestone that the American people can and should be proud of.

~ Arizona Sen. John McCain

Last month, Trump said he was considering the pardon.

[RELATED: Trump considering pardon for boxer Jack Johnson]

"Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial," Trump tweeted. "Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!"

Johnson, the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion, was convicted in 1913 under the Mann Act for taking his white girlfriend across state lines for "immoral" purposes. The Mann Act purported to prevent human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution, but critics have argued it was applied inconsistently to criminalize African Americans and those with dissenting political views.

Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury in less than two hours and was imprisoned for a year. The sentence and imprisonment destroyed the boxing career of the "Galveston Giant." He died in 1946.

Stallone called Johnson an "inspirational character."

[VIDEO: Sylvester Stallone says Johnson was inspiration for Apollo Creed character]

"It's incredible that you've done this," the "Rocky" star told the President.

"It's an honor to take a fictional character like Rocky and do something in the world of reality," Stallone said, thanking Johnson's niece.

In 2016, then-Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, along with Reps. Peter King, R-New York, and Gregory Meeks, D-New York, petitioned the Obama administration to grant a pardon to Johnson. The bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to the White House asking that the pardon be given in honor of the 70th anniversary of the boxer's death.

"While it is unfortunate that this unjust conviction was not corrected during the boxer's lifetime, a posthumous pardon today represents the opportunity to reaffirm Jack Johnson's substantial contributions to our society and right this historical wrong," the letter said.

In March 2017, Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, joined with McCain, King and Meeks to reintroduce a resolution urging Johnson's pardon.

[RELATED: Sen. McCain fights for pardon of black boxer Jack Johnson (March 30, 2107)]

"Despite this resolution passing both chambers of Congress several times in recent years, no pardon has been issued to date," McCain said in a statement at the time. "I hope President Trump will seize the opportunity before him to right this historical wrong and restore a great athlete's legacy."

 McCain issued another statement shortly after Trump pardoned Jackson.

“I applaud President Trump for issuing a posthumous pardon of boxing legend Jack Johnson, whose reputation was ruined by a racially charged conviction over a century ago," he said. "For years, Congress has overwhelmingly supported legislation calling on multiple U.S. presidents to right this historical wrong and restore this great athlete's legacy. President Trump's action today finally closes a shameful chapter in our nation’s history and marks a milestone that the American people can and should be proud of.”


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