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Nucky Johnson Wearing His Ever Present Red Carnation In His Lapel Joined The Cavalcade

Monday, September 20, 2010

The newly married Meyer Lansky was there. It wasn't where he had planned to spend his honeymoon, but his boss and sometime partner Lucky Luciano needed him at the meeting, so ever the loyal corporate man, he was there.

Since Meyer and several other members of the party were Jewish, Nucky Johnson, the crime boss of Atlantic City, had reserved rooms for the group in Anglo sounding names, at the exclusive Breakers Hotel, which restricted Jews. That part of the plan worked well, but when a cigar-chopping Al Capone, clad in a purple jacket and white pants and surrounded by a small army of thugs, trumped into the lobby, they were promptly barred from the place. The convoy of limousines drove away from the front of the Breakers to the less constricted, President Hotel.

Nucky Johnson, wearing his ever-present red carnation in his lapel, joined the cavalcade. Capone, who virtually ran Chicago and couldn't understand being barred from anything or anyplace, spotted Johnson and brought the parade to a halt in the middle of the street.Luciano said, "Nucky and Al had it out right there in the open. Johnson was about a foot taller then Capone and both of them had voices like foghorns. I think you could have heard them in Philadelphia, and there wasn't a decent word passed between them.

Johnson had a rep for four letter words that wasn't even invented and Capone is screamin' at me that I made bad arrangements. So Nucky picks up Al under one arm and throws him into his car and yells out, 'All you fuckers follow me.'With his financial base secure, Johnson worked his way to the top of the local political pecking order, securing himself a place on the Republican County Committee, where he could maintain firm discipline within his party. Not even the election of Woodrow Wilson, a reform-minded Democratic governor, could derail Johnson’s rise to the top.

Johnson’s power reached its peak, as did his town’s popularity, during Prohibition, from 1920 to 1933. When it came to illegal booze, there was probably no place in the country as wide open as Nucky’s town. It was almost as if word of the Volstead Act never reached Atlantic City. During Prohibition, Nucky was both a power broker in the Republican Party and a force in organized crime. He rubbed elbows with Presidents and Mafia thugs. But to Atlantic City’s residents, Johnson was hardly a thug. He was their hero, epitomizing the qualities that had made his town successful."

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