Jack Johnson:World Champion Heavyweight Boxer Wrongfully Convicted, Exonerated as A Patriot in Death

Jack Johnson is one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time. Books,movies and plays have been written and produced about his pugilistic fetes and his defiant  larger than life persona in the face of  American racism during the height of the Jim Crow era. Elite black athletes have long held vaunted , if not ambivalent roles in American history and folk lore. Heavy weight boxing champion Jack Johnson is among the most prominent. Johnson was vilified for violating racial taboos, often dating white women  as well as being indefatigable in the tortuous whippings he publicly unleashed on his white challengers.After serving a prison sentence for violation of the Mann Act a federal law in part crafted to wrongfully entrap Johnson as criminal miscreant and menace by enforcing a prison sentence for his public contempt of miscegenation codes forbidding black and white romantic trysts. Decades would pass before  Johnson’s tainted legacy as an American hero would be rightfully ensconced into the national Congressional record.The shameful facts of the extent of racial animus toward a Negro reviled for defying servile racial stereotypes, powerfully built,bold, brash and flamboyant, he was most reviled for contempt he showed for social norms and legal restrictions on interracial dating. by openly escorting and traveling with white women lovers. In September 2008 the U.S, congress with concurrence of the U.S. Senate entered an historic resolution and posthumous apology to the world’s first black American heavy weight champion  via congressional resolution. Included here are significant excerpts from the congressional resolution.

September 25, 2008 CR- House, Vol. 154,Pt 16

The House Congressional Resolution 214 begins: “Whereas John Arthur Jack Johnson a flamboyant, defiant and controversial figure in American History who challenged racial biases; whereas Jack Johnson was born in Galveston, Texas in 1878 to parents who were former slaves;

Whereas in Reno, Nevada, in 1910, in what was called the “battle of the Century”, a white former heavy weight champion named Jim Jeffries came back from retirement to fight, and lose to Jack Johnson;

Whereas the defeat of Jeffries sparked rioting and aggression toward African Americans and led to racially motivated murders of African Americans nation=wide; Whereas the resentment felt toward jack Johnson by many Whites was compounded by his relationships with white women;

Whereas between 1901 and 1910, 754 African Americans were lynched, some simply for being to familiar “ with white women;

Whereas in, Congress passed the hite-slave traffic ,commonly known as the Mann Act”),which outlawed the transportation of women in interstate or foreign commerce “for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose;

Whereas Jack Johnson was arrested by United States marshals on October 18, 1912 for transporting Lucille Cameron across State lines for an “immoral purpose” in violation of the Mann act, but Cameron refused to cooperate with authorities., the charges were dropped, and Cameron later married the champion; whereas federal authorities continued to pursue Jack Johnson and summoned Belle Schreiber, a white woman, to testify that Johnson had transported her across stateliness for the purposes of prostitution and debauchery”;

Whereas in 1913 Jack Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act and was sentenced to 1 year and 1 day in Federal prison, but fled the country to Canada and then to various European and South American countries;

Whereas; Jack Johnson returned to the United States in July 1920, surrendered to the authorities , and served nearly 1 year in the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas;

Whereas Jack Johnson fought boxing matches after his release from prison, but never regained the heavyweight championship title;

Whereas Jack Johnson supported this nation during World War II by encouraging citizens you buy war bonds and by participating in exhibition boxing matches to promote the sale of war bonds; whereas Jack Johnson died in an automobile accident in 1946; and

Whereas in 1964, Jack Johnson was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame: Now, therefore be it Resolved by the House of Representatives ( the Senate concurring) that it is the sense of congress that Jack Johnson was wronged by a racially motivated conviction prompted by his success in the boxing ring and his relationships with white women; The criminal conviction of Jack Johnson ruined his career and destroyed his reputation; and the President should grant a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson to expunge from the annals of American criminal justice a racially motivated abuse of the prosecutorial authority of the Federal Government and to recognize Jack Johnson’s athletic and cultural contributions to society.

Jack Johnson 5_searchJack Johnson 3Jack Johnson 2images-2Jack Johnson _1search-3Jack Johnson4Speaker: Ms. Zoe Lofgren of California

Although this nation failed him, Jack Johnson remained a patriotic American; He supported this nation during World War II by encouraging citizens to buy war bonds and by participating in exhibition boxing matches to promote the sale of war bonds. It is time we recognize this wrong that was done and do what is in our power to make amends for this wrongful conviction, which destroyed a boxing career, but not a courageous and indomitable sportsman.

 

John Woodruff Olympian Hero and Gold Medalist

John Woodruff gold Olympicn

John Woodruff, Gold Medal winner 1936 Olympics Berlin 800 meters

Randi Woodruff

Randi Woodruff Gilliam,as a student  Fisk University 1966

John Woodruff was a member of the 1936 U.S.A. Olympic team that destroyed Hitler’s failed narrative of Aryan superiority by joining America’s African American team mates Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalf , winning Gold medals in track and field.

John Youie “Long John” Woodruff (July 5, 1915 – October 30, 2007) was an American middle-distance runner, winner of the 800 m event at the 1936 Summer Olympics.[1](Wikipedia)

Woodruff was only a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh in 1936 when he placed second at the National AAU meet and first at the Olympic Trials (in the heat 1:49,9; WR 1:49,8), earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

Despite his inexperience, he was the favorite in the Olympic 800 meter run, and he did not disappoint. In one of the most exciting races in Olympic history, Woodruff became boxed in by other runners and was forced to stop running. He then came from behind to win in 1:52.9.

John Woodruff entered military service in 1941 as a Second Lieutenant and was discharged as a Captain in 1945. He reentered military service during the Korean War, and left in 1957 as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Pictured here with in the frame next to her father is daughter Randi, from her college days at her alma mater, Fisk University. This  profile of John Woodruff was originally  posted on my Facebook page. It includes photographs of both John Woodruff and  daughter Randi Woodruff Gilliam, also published here.During this year’s 2016 Olympics it seems only fitting to remind not only my fellow citizens but college friends  and fellow Fisk classmates of what a true American hero John Woodruff  is and just how proud his legacy has made us all.

 

Tony Bennett, An American Treasure: A Hard Act to Follow

Happy 90th. Birthday Tony Bennett,Born April 3, 1926 an “American Treasure”. Thank

Dennis &Tony Bennett 1993you!

Photo: Legendary award winning singer, Tony Bennett and jazz singer Dennis Day among those in musical tribute to American singer, Billy Eckstine  at the Bluenote, March 1993.

The picture above was taken at The Bluenote  Jazz Cub’s Tribute to singer Billy Eckstine in New York City in 1993. Tony Bennett came out to pay homage to his old friend the late, great Billy Eckstine. Unfortunately for me and the audience, Tony had to leave early,and I was called on by the stage manager to go on after him,I said,”they expect me to follow “you Mr. Bennett? He had floored the packed house., and the audience hadn’t settled down quite yet.He said. “I’ll stick around to hear you, and give you a little moral support, you’ll do just fine”. Afterward I came off stage we took pictures and he told me, kid you’re a natural, just keep singing,stay at it, you’ll do just fine Dennis”. His words of encouragement sustain me to this very day, even those days I feel like throwing in the towel.It was one of my most memorable nights. The line for the night’s tribute doubled half way around west 4th. st. on Bleecker in the West Village. The artist roster read like a veritable”Who’s Who” in Jazz. By some strange twist of fait, I made the bill as one of the few male singers honoring one of the greatest of all time that incredible night.