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'Great white hope' phrase has Kansas link

Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, said she was unaware that the phrase "great white hope" had "any negative connotation" when she used it recently to describe the GOP's need for leadership. The term is associated with the desire among some whites in 1909 and 1910 to find a white boxer to challenge heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who was African-American. His story inspired a 1967 play and the 1970 movie "The Great White Hope." But in an interesting coincidence, noted the Lawrence Journal-World, "Jess Willard, a white man who knocked out Johnson in 1915 for the heavyweight championship, was born northwest of Topeka in St. Clere, about 30 miles from Holton, where Jenkins grew up."