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​Johnson was under a federal indictment for drug conspiracy when he died of congestive heart failure 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 keeled over clutching his chest. Friend Frank Lucas claims to have been present and cradled Bumpy in his arms, and Johnson briefly opened his eyes and smiled, then fell into unconsciousness.


In 1952, Johnson's activities were reported in the celebrity people section of Jet. That same year, Johnson was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a drug conspiracy conviction related to heroin. He served the majority of that sentence at Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay, California and was released in 1963 on parole. Johnson was arrested more than 40 times and served two prison terms for narcotics-related charges.


​Johnson was an associate of numbers queen Madame Stephanie St. Clair. 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 Shultz. 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.


Ellsworth Raymond "Bumpy" Johnson was born in Charleston, South Carolina on October 31, 1905. Johnson dropped out of high school and began working unruly jobs. Gangster William Hewett started to notice him. Johnson then began working for him and this was the beginning to his life of crime.

The Story of

Bumpy Johnson


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