Merle Haggard was granted a full pardon from then-California Governor Ronald Reagan on March 14, 1972.
Haggard had been arrested for attempting to rob a Bakersfield tavern in 1957, and was sent to the San Quentin state prison. It was at San Quentin where Haggard played for the prison’s country music band, attributing a performance by Johnny Cash at the prison in 1959 as inspiration to join it.
Speaking about the pardon, Haggard said, “Well, you can imagine yourself, you got this tail hanging on you, and suddenly you don’t have it anymore,” he told OneCountry. “It’s just wonderful not to have to walk up and say, ‘Pardon me, before I do this, I want to tell you that I’m an ex-convict.’ You have to do that with any sort of legal transaction, with leaving the country, with anything of that nature. All those things went away when Ronald Reagan was kind enough to look at my case and give me a pardon.”
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