Bumpy Johnson was a legendary figure in the world of gambling. Born Ellsworth Raymond Johnson on October 31, 1905, in Charleston, South Carolina, Bumpy Johnson was a notorious gambler, gangster, and businessman who became a major player in the underworld of New York City during the early and mid-20th century. In this blog, we will take a closer look at the life and legacy of this fascinating figure.
Early Life and Career
Bumpy Johnson was born into poverty in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, William, was a dockworker, and his mother, Minnie, was a laundress. When Bumpy was just ten years old, his family moved to Harlem, New York City, where he began to run errands for the local numbers racket, a form of illegal gambling that was popular in African American communities.
By his teenage years, Bumpy had become a full-time gambler and a small-time criminal, running numbers and participating in petty theft. He was also involved in the street gang known as the “Harlem Godfathers.” In 1928, at the age of 23, Bumpy was sent to Sing Sing prison for the first time, serving three years for theft.
Gangster and Gambler
After his release from prison, Bumpy Johnson became a major player in the Harlem underworld. He teamed up with the notorious gangster Dutch Schultz, working as a enforcer and bodyguard for Schultz’s illegal gambling operations. Bumpy quickly gained a reputation as a tough and ruthless enforcer, and he became Schultz’s right-hand man.
In the early 1930s, Bumpy began to build his own gambling empire, operating numbers games, sports betting, and other forms of illegal gambling in Harlem. He also became involved in the policy racket, a form of illegal gambling in which players bet on the last three digits of the daily lottery number. Bumpy’s policy operation was highly successful, and he used the profits to fund other criminal enterprises, such as drug trafficking and extortion.
Despite his criminal activities, Bumpy Johnson was a respected figure in the Harlem community. He was known for his generosity, and he often used his criminal proceeds to help those in need. He also had a reputation for being fair and honest in his dealings, and he was respected by both his allies and his enemies.
Family, Friends and Associates of Bumpy Johnson
Bumpy Johnson was married to a woman named Mayme Hatcher, whom he met in the 1930s. Mayme was a numbers runner and a former chorus girl, and she quickly became Bumpy’s partner in both his criminal and his social activities. Mayme was known for her beauty, her intelligence, and her strength, and she played a key role in Bumpy’s success.
Bumpy and Mayme had three children together, daughters Margaret and Elizabeth, and a son named Earl. Margaret and Elizabeth both became successful businesswomen, while Earl followed in his father’s footsteps and became involved in organized crime.
Bumpy Johnson had many friends and associates in the worlds of gambling and organized crime. One of his closest allies was Dutch Schultz, a notorious gangster who controlled much of the illegal gambling in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s. Bumpy worked for Schultz as an enforcer and a bodyguard, and he was one of Schultz’s most trusted lieutenants.
Another important associate of Bumpy’s was Frank Lucas, a drug kingpin who became famous for smuggling heroin into the United States during the 1970s. Lucas was a protégé of Bumpy’s, and he learned many of his criminal skills from the older man. He also had close relationships with other figures in the Harlem underworld, such as the gangsters Ellsworth “Biscuit” Davis and “Cadillac” Joe.
Bumpy Johnson in Modern Culture
Bumpy Johnson has become a popular figure in modern culture, with his story being adapted for films, television shows, and books. One of the most famous adaptations is the film “American Gangster” (2007). It starred Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas and featured Bumpy as a major character. The character of Bumpy has also been featured in several other films and TV shows, including “The Cotton Club” (1984) and “Godfather of Harlem” (2019), which centers around Bumpy’s criminal activities in the 1960s. In addition, Bumpy’s life has been the subject of several biographies and historical works, which continue to fascinate and inspire audiences today. Overall, Bumpy Johnson’s legacy continues to have a significant impact on popular culture. He remains an important part of American history.
Later Years and Legacy
Bumpy Johnson continued to run his gambling empire throughout the 1940s and 1950s. However, his fortunes began to decline in the 1960s, as the federal government began to crack down on organized crime. Bumpy was arrested several times during this period. He spent more time in prison than he did on the streets.
In the 1960s, Bumpy Johnson became involved in civil rights activism. He worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders. He was particularly concerned with issues affecting the African American community in Harlem, such as poverty, unemployment, and drug addiction.
Bumpy also worked to combat drug addiction directly, by setting up a drug rehabilitation center in Harlem. Its name is the Wagon of Hope. The center provided medical care, counseling, and other services to addicts. It was one of the first such programs in the United States.
Bumpy Johnson died of a heart attack on July 7, 1968, at the age of 62. Many in the Harlem community mourned his death, who saw him as a hero and a defender of their rights. Today, Bumpy Johnson is remembered as one of the most legendary figures in the world of gambling and organized crime. His life and legacy continue to inspire books, movies, and TV shows. His influence can still be felt in the criminal underworld of New York City.
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