Jack Johnson, was a man to write home about. A man of incredible courage, he not only defeated all comers in the ring, he staunchly remained his edgy flamboyant self at a time when lynching was a common. He shrugged off multiple death threats. At a time when making an off-hand remark to a white woman could get a black man killed, Johnson dated and married whites. His response to open hatred was often a smile and a taunt in reply.
One of my favorite Johnson stories, which I’ll paraphrase from Geoffery C. Ward’s comprehensive book, Unforgivable Blackness, The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson, involved Johnson’s penchant for speeding in fast cars. The champion could afford the fastest, most expensive cars and whites were often jealous. As a result, he was given many speeding tickets, outrageously unjust ones at times. But many tickets were deserved. Johnson drove like a bat out of hell.Pulled over by one officer for racing through town he was assessed a fifty dollar ticket, a huge sum early in the century. He leafed out a one hundred dollar bill from his wad of cash and the officer responded that he could not make change. Unperturbed Johnson, if I remember the quote correctly, allegedly replied, “Keep da change, ’cause I plans on speedin’ on my way back.”