Bumpy Johnson

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Bumpy Johnson
Johnson in USP Leavenworth, January 11, 1954
Ellsworth Raymond Johnson

(1905-10-31)October 31, 1905
DiedJuly 7, 1968(1968-07-07) (aged 62)
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery (Bronx, New York)
Occupation(s)Crime boss, drug trafficker
Mayme Hatcher
(m. 1948)
Conviction(s)Drug conspiracy (1952)
Criminal penalty15 years' imprisonment

Ellsworth Raymond "Bumpy" Johnson (October 31, 1905 – July 7, 1968) was an American crime boss in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.

Early life[edit]

Ellsworth Raymond "Bumpy" Johnson was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on October 31, 1905, to Margaret Moultrie and William Johnson. 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.[1] Johnson's nickname "Bumpy" is derived from a bump on the back of his head.[2] As Johnson grew older, his parents worried about his short temper and insolence towards white people, and in 1919 he was sent to live with his older sister Mabel in Harlem. Johnson dropped out of high school and began working in casual jobs. Gangster William Hewett noticed Johnson, who began working for him, beginning his life of crime.[3]


Johnson was an associate of numbers queen Madame Stephanie St. Clair.[4] He became St. Clair's principal lieutenant in the 1930s. Johnson and St. Clair aimed to start a war against New York mob boss Dutch Schultz. The fight resulted in more than 40 murders and several kidnappings. Eventually the fight on their end was lost, ending with a deal for Johnson.[5]

In 1952, Johnson's activities were reported in the celebrity people section of Jet.[6] That same year, Johnson was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a drug conspiracy conviction related to heroin.[7][8] Two years later, Jet reported in its crime section that Johnson began his sentence after losing an appeal.[9] He served the majority of that sentence at Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay, California as inmate No. 1117, and was released in 1963 on parole.[10]

Johnson was arrested more than 40 times and served two 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.[11]


Johnson was under a federal indictment for drug conspiracy when he died of a heart attack on July 7, 1968, at the age of 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 fell over clutching his chest.[1] He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York City.

Personal life[edit]

Bumpy Johnson married Mayme Hatcher in October 1948, six months after their first meeting.[12] Johnson had two daughters, Ruthie and Elease, the latter of whom was from another relationship. His wife died in May 2009 at the age of 94.[13]

In popular culture[edit]





  • The character of Sammy Robinson in Mafia III was partially inspired by Ellsworth Johnson.


  1. ^ a b Harlem Godfather: The Rap on My Husband, Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson
  2. ^ Tyler, Gus (1967) [1962]. Organized crime in America: a book of readings. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press. p. 242. ISBN 978-0-472-06127-3. OCLC 247980358. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
  3. ^ "Bumpy Johnson". Biography. Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  4. ^ "Queenie and Bumpy". crimelibrary. 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-04-17. Retrieved 2008-04-09.
  5. ^ Watson, Elwood (2008-02-13). "Ellsworth 'Bumpy' Johnson (1906-1968)". Blackpast.org. Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  6. ^ "People". Jet. 1952.
  7. ^ "The Fascinating Story Of Mob Boss Bumpy Johnson". Casino.org. 8 May 2022. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  8. ^ "The True Story Behind Godfather of Harlem". Time. September 26, 2019.
  9. ^ "Crime". Jet. Vol. 5, no. 9. January 7, 1954. p. 49. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved March 27, 2011.
  10. ^ [1] Archived December 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ John Howard Johnson (1980). Fact Not fiction in Harlem. Northern Type Printing, Inc. p. 119. ASIN B00072X07G.p.103+
  12. ^ "[Video] Mayme Hatcher Johnson: Wife of Notorious Harlem Gangster Ellsworth". Black Then. 2017-11-13. Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  13. ^ "Mayme Hatcher Johnson, Author and Widow of Harlem Gangster Bumpy Johnson, dead at 94". BlackRadioNetwork. Retrieved 2020-04-08.
  14. ^ a b c Queenan, Joe (17 November 2007). "Joe Queenan on 'Bumpy' Johnson, the most feared criminal in 1930s Harlem". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Bumpy Johnson Profile - Famous Bookmaker and Mob Boss from New York City". www.gamblingsites.org.
  16. ^ Denene Millner (24 August 1997). "FROM HARLEM TO 'HOODLUM' MEET THE BLACK MOBSTER WHOSE 'BUMPY' LIFE OF CRIME IS NOW A NEW MOVIE". Daily News. New York. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  17. ^ "Ellsworth Raymond 'Bumpy' Johnson - On this day..." dayshistory.wordpress.com. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  18. ^ a b Hunter, Stephen (27 August 1997). "'HOODLUM' AIMS HIGH IF NOT ALWAYS TRUE". The Washington Post. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  19. ^ "Alcatraz Escape - Unsolved Mysteries". Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  20. ^ Petski, Denise (25 April 2018). "Forest Whitaker To Topline Straight-To-Series Crime Drama At Epix". Deadline. Retrieved 2018-04-25.
  21. ^ D'Addario, Daniel (September 9, 2019). "TV Review: 'Godfather of Harlem'". Variety. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  22. ^ "Central Cee Drops Surprise 'No More Leaks' EP, Leads With "One Up" Video". Complex. Retrieved 2022-10-16.

External links[edit]