Mayme Hatcher Johnson, widow of Harlem gangster Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson as depicted in the 2007 blockbuster American Gangster, died in Philadelphia on Friday, May 1, 2009 of respiratory complications. She was 94 years old.
Mayme, who was originally from North Carolina, moved to Harlem in 1938 and met “Bumpy” just ten years later.
“Bumpy and I met in April 1948,” she said in her book “Harlem Godfather.” “In October of that year we were driving past 116th and St. Nicholas Avenue in his Cadillac when suddenly he turned to me and said, “Mayme, I think you and I should go ahead and get married.”
The two were married in a civil ceremony just two weeks later. She remained married to Bumpy until his death of a heart attack 20 years later, although he was incarcerated at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary for ten years of their marriage.
In the tell-all, which was published in February of 2008 at the age of 93, she reveals how challenging it was being the wife of a popular drug lord.
“It meant I could get in anywhere I wanted to go, I was treated as queen wherever I went, and I was showered with gifts and jewelry on a steady basis,” Mayme wrote. “It also meant that I was constantly accosted by other women who were in love with Bumpy and wanted me out of the way. At first I was upset, but then I pretty much learned to ignore them.”
But her ultimate reason for finally publishing the biography about her husband was so that “people could know the truth about him rather than all the myths.”
"Frank Lucas, the dope-dealer, portrayed by Denzel Washington in the upcoming movie [American Gangster] is a low-down good for nothing liar,” she told the Chicago Syndicate in 2007 when asked about his relationship with her husband.
Mayme is on record with the media dissing the movie, saying that Frank lied about Bumpy being a mentor and a confidante. She also said that it was untrue that Bumpy died in his arms, as the movie portrays.
"Frank Lucas was little more than a flunky to Bumpy; a flunky he never fully trusted,” she revealed. “Frank, Bumpy said, was a liar, and it’s easier to trust a thief than a liar."
– Christina Coleman