Mr. Ellsworth Raymond Johnson, often known as “Bumpy Johnson,” was an American crime boss who operated in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Bumpy Johnson was also a bookmaker.
Johnson is well known for his rise through the ranks of the Stephanie Saint Clair crime family, during which he started as an enforcer and eventually took over her activities and became the primary black guy with whom the Italian mafia dealt.
Even though Bumpy passed away in 1968, he has been memorialized in a number of films, television episodes, and songs that were produced in more recent decades.
Let’s continue our conversation about this infamous criminal by looking at his early life, days as an enforcer, book producing, and contacts with the Italian mafia, as well as pop culture allusions, and a contemporary scandal concerning Frank Lucas.
The Beginnings of Bumpy Johnson’s Life
In spite of the fact that Johnson built his reputation in New York, he started his life in Charleston, which is located in South Carolina.
Johnson was born on October 31, 1905, and he lived through the Segregation Era while he was growing up. After sustaining a blow to the head in his younger years and acquiring a noticeable bump as a result of the injury, he became known by the nick moniker Bumpy.
Due to the fact that black people were subject to bigotry and persecution, particularly in the Deep South, Ellsworth and his brother Willie had a difficult time of it.
Willie was accused of murdering a white man while Bumpy was just 10 years old. Willie was taken to live with relatives up north because his parents were afraid that a lynch mob would put an end to his life before he could get a fair trial.
Because of his explosive anger and disrespectful attitude toward white people, Bumpy wasn’t far behind, and his parents were terrified that he, too, might one day be punished because of his behavior.
In 1919, Johnson was sent to live with his sister Mabel in Harlem, which at the time was one of the most populous metropolitan neighborhoods and was one of the primary destinations for African Americans seeking employment after World War I.
From Working at a Newspaper Stand to Being Imprisoned
After moving to Harlem while he was still a young adolescent, Johnson supported himself by selling newspapers and sweeping floors.
Johnson’s first experiences with gambling came about when he started participating in competitive games of pool and dice shooting for money.
In addition, Bumpy became friends with Natt Pettigrew and Bub Hewlett, who would later become his criminal partners. The latter eventually became one of Johnson’s early business partners. Together, they demanded protection money from neighborhood establishments, as is customary in mafia culture.
As the following decade progressed, Bumpy would spend a significant portion of his life locked up for a variety of offenses. When he began working for Stephanie St. Clair at the age of 32, however, his life would undergo a dramatic transformation that would change the course of his whole existence.
The Empress of Calculations
St. Clair gained her early income from the sale of banned substances, which earned her the nicknames Madame and Queen of Numbers.
Later on, she became involved in the numbers game, which is a kind of illegitimate gambling that was notably prevalent in ghettos throughout the early and middle decades of the 1900s.
Bettors compete against one another in an attempt to match three digits with those that will be picked at random the next day in the numbers game. St. Clair earned a highly profitable living off of the enterprise; in the 1920s, she took home $20,000 year, which is equivalent to almost $285,000 in today’s dollars.
This is very important to Johnson because he intends to one day take over the operations of St. Clair and acquire control of the lucrative numbers game.
But first, he was taken on board as a means of providing security against the legendary criminal Dutch Shultz, also known as the Beer Baron of the Bronx.