Ellsworth Raymond Johnson


October 31, 1905 Charleston, South Carolina


July 7, 1968 (aged 62) New York City





Cause of death

Heart failure

Resting place

Woodlawn Cemetery

"Bumpy Johnson - he was like my godfather. My godfather was a cold-blooded gangster. The best there`d ever been and the best there is.'" - Frank Lucas about Bumpy Johnson

Ellsworth Raymond "Bumpy" Johnson (October 31, 1905 - July 7, 1968) was an American gangster in New York City's Harlem neighborhood in the early 20th century.

Story of Ashley Simmons[edit | edit source]

Ellsworth Raymond "Bumpy" Johnson lived a very high-styled life of crime in the early and mid-20th century in New York City. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, he grew up in Harlem and never hesitated to break the law if he thought it would profit him. His talents were noticed by the "numbers game" expert Stephanie "Queenie" St. Clair, a black French woman from Martinique who was such an effective gang leader, known for her ruthless and brutal tactics, that she was running an old, predominantly white gang called the Forty Thieves by the late 1920s in New York City. Bumpy Johnson became Queenie St. Clair's right-hand man and heir-apparent by the early 1930s.

Bumpy Johnson was a vicious killer, extortionist and all-around weasel, and though Queenie did not like it, he also was a pimp and robber. He never gave up either of those side-line professions.

Bumpy Johnson became and maintained his position as the kingpin of Harlem crime for nearly 40 years. He knew how to remain in power, by playing the friend of the downtrodden for the news media, always being seen helping the community. While his desire to help the less fortunate was probably an honest one, he gave with one hand as he took away with the other. He knew that to be the way of "good business". He fostered an attitude by those in the Harlem community that he was a sort of "Robin Hood", but he was all hoodlum, first and foremost. He was a clever crook.

He was imprisoned 3 times for running a narcotics ring. He fancied himself a deep thinker, and while in prison he read philosophy and wrote poetry. He never stopped being a vicious crook and a brutal enforcer to those who got in his way, personally or in business.

Ellsworth Raymond "Bumpy" Johnson died of a heart attack in 1968. Despite the claim made by his driver, Frank Lucas, Bumpy Johnson's widow claims that Lucas was not present with Bumpy Johnson when Johnson had that fatal heart attack. Frank Lucas made much of his claim, and asserted his right to claim Bumpy Johnson's position atop the Harlem drug-king's empire. As history shows us, Frank Lucas did successfully take over Bumpy Johnson's crime business and wrote his own chapter in that history of American crime-lords.

Bumpy Character Pictures[edit | edit source]

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.