What happened to Bumpy Johnson's wife Mayme Hatcher Johnson and their two daughters? (2024)

After decades of half-truths from gangster flicks like Hoodlum and American Gangster, the true (well true-er) story of one of the baddest men to ever walk the streets of New York is now streaming on EPIX. The Godfather of Harlem tells the story of Bumpy Johnson, the first Black man to stand up to the white mobsters of New York, and live to tell the story.

Thanks to his late widow, Mayme Johnson, we know a great deal about The Godfather of Harlem’s real life. But for all of her detailed notes on the mythos surrounding her husband, not much is known about the woman herself, or the children she and her husband brought into the world.

Who was Mayme Johnson?

What happened to Bumpy Johnson's wife Mayme Hatcher Johnson and their two daughters? (1)

Mayme Hatcher was the wife of Harlem Kingpin, Bumpy Johnson. Just like her husband, Hatcher was born in 1914, in North Carolina. During the Jim Crow Era, a period of “separate but equal” segregation between white and Black Americans in the Southern U.S., the South was unsafe for Black Americans. Many families migrated to northern states, where they could live more fulfilling and safer lives.

Mayme arrived in New York in 1938, where she worked as a waitress in a club. She met Johnson in 1948, and just 6 months later, the two were married in October.

“…[Bumpy] suddenly turned to me and said, ‘Mayme, I think you and I should go ahead and get married.’ I was stunned, but I kept my composure. I said simply, ‘Is that right?’ he said, ‘Yes, that’s right.’”

Mayme Johnson compared being married to Bumpy to being treated like royalty, observing that “I could get in anywhere I wanted to go I was treated like a queen wherever I went, and I was showered with gifts and jewelry on a steady basis.”

A religious woman, Mayme was known for her charitable work and numerous volunteer activities through St. Martin’s Episcopal Church.

Though Johnson allegedly had a romantic tryst with popular socialite and Editor Helen Lawson, and was incarcerated for 15 years in 1951, the two remained married until his death in 1968. Mayme Johnson never remarried, and spent her golden years working on a biography of her late husband. Her novel was released in 2008, when she was 93 years old. Mayme Johnson died in May, 2009.

The Johnsons had one daughter together, Ruthie Johnson. Bumpy Johnson also brought to the family his daughter, Elease (some sources spell it Elise), from a previous relationship.

What happened to Bumpy Johnson’s daughters?

What happened to Bumpy Johnson's wife Mayme Hatcher Johnson and their two daughters? (2)

Ruthie Johnson lived a relatively obscure life. She largely stayed out of the spotlight, so not much is known about her, save that she passed in 2006.

Elease’s story is a bit easier to track.

Elease was Mayme Johnson’s stepdaughter. Her biological mother is unknown, but she lived with her father Bumpy, and her stepmother. Like the other women in Bumpy’s life, Elease was showered with the finer things in life, but her father’s criminal record allegedly prevented her from obtaining higher education. Her hardships drove her to heroin, and before long she was addicted. She was a known shoplifter, and her frequent bouts of trouble left her incapable of taking care of her daughter, Margaret.

While she did have connections to Civil Rights leader Malcolm X through her father, it’s never been proven the pair were romantically linked. Elease died in 2006, the same year as her younger half-sister, Ruthie.

Unable to care for her daughter Margaret herself, Elease left her in the care of her grandparents. The Johnsons raised Margaret as if she were their own daughter, showering her with gifts and enrolling her in one of New York’s most prestigious private schools of the day. She unwittingly earned a commission from her grandfather by calculating the gambling income he made playing The Numbers Game.

Margaret was known as “Annie Oakley of Harlem” after she shot a man who attempted to rob her. Though she was wheelchair-bound with a dislocated hip and a slipped disc, she managed to nab her purse, and keep the would-be-robber detained until authorities arrived.

Margaret Johnson was well-liked by her community, and followed in her grandparents’ philanthropic footsteps, helping her neighborhood wherever she could. Margaret passed away in 2016, and is survived by her son, Anthony Johnson.

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What happened to Bumpy Johnson's wife Mayme Hatcher Johnson and their two daughters? (2024)


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