Ellsworth Raymond Johnson (October 31, 1905 – July 7, 1968) — known as “Bumpy” Johnson — was an American mob boss and bookmaker in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood.
The main Harlem associate of the Genovese crime family, Johnson’s criminal career has inspired films and television.
Harlem Godfather: The Rap On My Husband, Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson is the first complete biography of a man who for years was Harlem s best kept, and most cherished secret. The book is written by Bumpy's widow, Mayme Johnson, and details not only his criminal life and relationships, but also his close relationships with Harlem luminaries like. Aug 24, 1997 at 12:00 AM Without question, Ellsworth 'Bumpy' Johnson was once the baddest cat in Harlem. He ran the bustling numbers racket north of 96th St. Like he was the black godfather of the.
Johnson was born in Charleston, South Carolina on October 31, 1905. Johnson derived his nickname “Bumpy” from a bump on the back of his head. When he was 10, his older brother, Willie, was accused of killing a white man. Afraid of a possible lynch mob, his parents mortgaged their tiny home to raise money to send Willie up north to live with relatives. As Johnson grew older, his parents worried about his short temper and insolence toward whites and in 1919 he was sent to live with his older sister Mabel in Harlem.
Johnson was an associate of numbers queen Madame Stephanie St. Clair.
By the age of 30, Johnson had spent nearly half his life in prison for a variety of crimes. After being released from prison in 1932, Johnson learned that notorious gangster Dutch Schultz, who was known as the Beer Baron of the Bronx, had moved in on the numbers racket in Harlem. Any numbers banker who refused to turn over his numbers operation to Schultz was targeted for violence. Schultz was murdered in 1935, which was arranged by Lucky Luciano and the National Crime Syndicate.
Luciano took over most of Schultz’s number operations in Harlem but made a deal with Johnson which allowed the numbers bankers who had fought for their independence to remain independent as long as their taxes were paid. That deal made Johnson an instant hero in the eyes of many Harlemites, who were impressed that a black man could actually cut deals with the Italian Mafia.
the de facto crime boss of Harlem
Johnson was soon the toast of Harlem,and became friends with many Harlem luminaries such as Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, and Sugar Ray Robinson. He also became the de facto crime boss of Harlem: no one could conduct criminal activities in his section of New York without first going through him.
In 1948 he met 34-year-old Mayme Hatcher at Frasier’s Restaurant on Seventh Avenue in Harlem; the two were married six months later.
By the summer of 1952, Johnson’s activities were being reported in the celebrity people section of Jet, an American weekly marketed toward African American readers, founded in 1951 by John H. Johnson ofJohnson Publishing Company in Chicago, Illinois. That same year, Johnson was indicted in New York for conspiracy to sell heroin (he claimed to have been framed, and many people believed him) and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Two years later, Jet reported in its crime section that Johnson began his sentence after losing an appeal. He served the majority of his prison time at Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay, California as inmate No. 1117, (Numerical Index of Former Inmates of U.S. Penitentiary, Alcatraz, 1934-63 from Records of the Bureau of Prisons (RG 129) and it has been said that he helped three fellow inmates escape by arranging to have a boat pick them up once they broke out and made it to San Francisco Bay. Johnson was released from prison in 1963 and returned to Harlem, where he was greeted with an impromptu parade.
Johnson was arrested more than 40 times and would eventually serve three prison terms for narcotics-related charges. In December 1965, Johnson staged a sit-down strike in a police station, refusing to leave, as a protest against their continued surveillance. He was charged with “refusal to leave a police station” but was acquitted by a judge.
Johnson was under a federal indictment for drug conspiracy when he died of heart failure on July 7, 1968 at age 62. He was at Wells Restaurant in Harlem shortly before 2 a.m., and the waitress had just served him coffee, a chicken leg, and hominy grits, when he keeled over clutching his chest.Childhood friend Finley Hoskins was there, and someone ran down the street to the Rhythm Club to get another childhood friend, Junie Byrd. When Byrd arrived, he cradled Bumpy in his arms, and Johnson briefly opened his eyes and smiled, then fell into unconsciousness. He was taken, by ambulance, to Harlem Hospital where he was pronounced dead. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery (source).Mon, May. 4, 2009
Mayme Johnson, widow of Harlem crime boss, dies at 94
By JOHN F. MORRISON
Philadelphia Daily News
Mayme Hatcher Johnson
Ellsworth 'Bumpy' Johnson was the undisputed king of the Harlem
underworld from the '30s to the '60s.
And being Bumpy's girl was a title of rare prestige.
Mayme Hatcher Johnson told of her life with the infamous hoodlum in
her book 'Harlem Godfather: The Rap on My Husband, Ellsworth 'Bumpy'
Johnson,' published last year.
In the tome, Mayme tells of the benefits of being the girlfriend, and
later the wife, of the legendary crime boss.
'It was a good title to possess,' she said. 'It meant I could get in
anywhere I wanted to go. I was treated as a queen wherever I went, and
I was showered with gifts and jewelry on a steady basis.'
Mayme Johnson, who moved to Philadelphia in 2003, died Friday of
respiratory failure. She was 94.
One of her motives in writing the book was her anger at how her
husband's associate, Frank Lucas, was portrayed in the 2007 film
She insisted that Lucas, portrayed by Denzel Washington in the movie,
was nothing more than a flunky in her husband's organization.
Daily News columnist Jenice Armstrong interviewed Mayme just before
the movie premiered.
'I remember walking into her room at the nursing home and was taken
aback by what I found,' Armstrong said. 'I'm not sure what I expected,
but it certainly wasn't this sweet, elegant grandmother.
'She was lovely and soft-spoken - unless she was talking about Frank
Lucas and what she thought of him and how he'd inflated his role in
her husband's crime syndicate. That's when she got all riled up. She
was furious about the movie.'
Armstrong said that she was also impressed by Mayme's demeanor as she
talked about her late husband, who died in 1968, and the life they had
'I was surprised at how idyllic she made it sound,' Armstrong said.
'She talked about their travels to Europe and the furs he'd bought her
and this wonderful life they'd shared.'
When Armstrong tried to press her about her husband's criminal
activities, which financed their idyllic existence, 'she would pause
and look at me and say, 'We had a good life.'
'I'd expected her to weigh in from a moral standpoint and denounce her
husband's illegal activities, but she never did that. She never even
gave a hint of that.'
Mayme was born in 1914 in North Carolina and moved to New York City in
1938, where she found work as a waitress at a club owned by singer and
actress Ethel Waters.
She met Johnson, who was called 'Bumpy' because of a bump on the back
of his head, in a Harlem restaurant in 1948.
Bumpy was on his way to being a legend who eventually would be
depicted in films and TV shows.
Boeing 777 x plane 11. 'In October that year, we were driving past 116th Street and St.
Nicholas Avenue in his Cadillac when he suddenly turned to me and
said, 'Mayme, I think you and I should go ahead and get married.'
'I was stunned, but I kept my composure. I said simply, 'Is that
right?' He said, 'Yes, that's right,' and kept on driving.'
They were married in a civil ceremony two weeks later. Bumpy collapsed
and died of a heart attack in a Harlem restaurant on July 7, 1968.
Mayme, a longtime member of St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Harlem,
was known for her charitable and volunteer activities.'
'Mayme was a class act, and had a big heart,' said Henry 'Perk'
Perkins, a Harlem restaurateur and close friend of both Mayme and
'She was the sweetest woman in the world, but she didn't take any
nonsense. She carried herself like a real lady and expected to be
treated as such.'
Her book, written with author Karen E. Quinones Miller, may become a
film itself. Perkins said that Johnson was notified two days before
her death that a film company was negotiating to purchase the rights.
'Yeah, she was tickled pink to tell people she was an author at age
93,' Perkins said. 'Boy, it really made her proud to finally get that
She is survived by a sister, Lily Andrews; a brother, Melvin Hatcher;
and two grandchildren.
Services: Will be private.
'Think with your dipstick, Jimmy.'