Perhaps one of the most infamous Black drug lords in U.S. history has died, according to his family. Frank Lucas, 88, was known as the “Godfather of Harlem” and the subject of the 2007 hit movie American Gangster, starring Denzel Washington, died on Thursday, May 30, 2019, according to his nephew, Aldwan Lassiter.
Lucas came to power after taking over the reins of the criminal empire of another Harlem crime legend Ellsworth Raymond Johnson, known on the streets of Harlem as Bumpy Johnson. Lucas made the vast majority of his fortune during the heroin epidemic of the late 1960s and 1970s. The Harlem community was flooded with cheap heroin by the Italian Mafia, most famously John Gotti, head of the Gambino crime family.
Lucas was well known for giving away Turkeys during the Thanksgiving holiday season and also paying for the funerals of many residents in the neighborhood. The problem was that, in some cases, Lucas was responsible for the deaths of some of these people from heroin overdoses and the enforcement of his power.
Lucas was a marketing genius and peddled his own brand of heroin, stamped with the name “Blue Magic,” which was more potent than the product offered by his competitors. In the movie American Gangster, it was revealed that Lucas bypassed the Mafia supply network and was able to import heroin directly from sources in Southeast Asia. At one point, it was estimated that he was bringing in $1 million a day.
His increasing profits caught the attention of the New York Police Department and other law enforcement agencies and led to his arrest, despite paying off crooked cops. When the police raided his home, they seized $500,000 in cash that Lucas kept as his getaway money. He was able to avoid an extensive prison sentence by turning informant on dirty cops and his rivals.
But, as he told rolling out during an exclusive interview, he never entered the witness protection program. He told this reporter, “You got that wrong. Where that s— come from? You got to fear somebody to be in the witness protection program, and I have never feared nobody.”
Lucas’ latter years were not good. He was broke and using a motorized wheelchair when he arrived to be interviewed at the rolling out studios in July 2016. It was a sobering sight to see the current state of one of the most infamous and feared men in the drug game. His hands were gnarled and hooked from arthritis, and he had limited range of motion with his arms.
Although his physical condition was weakened, his mind was still sharp. Lucas was concerned about personal redemption with God and how he was going to pay his bills and warning Black youth to stay away from the drug game.
He had these words of advice for Black parents and their children tempted to get into criminal activity:
“If you do something immoral, you should be punished, but momma and daddy got to stop them before they do something immoral. They have to stop them while they are young. Don’t be scared to put a strap on their ass.”