He was portrayed by Hollywood’s top actor Denzel Washington in the 2007 hit film ‘American Gangster’ as one of the nation’s most notorious and affluent gangsters, but in the end Frank Lucas was mere shadow of the former and succumbed humble and modest.
“Please learn from my mistakes,” he said. “Stay in school, finish high school and earn the highest degree in education that you can. This is the way to go in life.”
Lucas, who infamously infiltrated the streets of Harlem and Newark with a deadly potent “Blue Magic” heroin during the 1960s and ’70s, is dead. Lucas died of natural causes on May 30th in Cedar Grove, N.J. He was 88.
Lucas was loosely depicted in the film as a slick dressed and crafty manipulating kingpin whose rags to riches portrayal captured the fantasy of urban America, albeit at the demise of generations of Blacks engulfed in a heroin epidemic of which ruminants will continue to cripple communities into the next century.
Although Lucas was credited with establishing the Asian connection that smuggled heroin and broke into the Mafia’s long domination of narcotics in the New York area, many of his allegations have been debunked.
His finals days was spent living in Newark, using wheelchair, while professing remorse for the crimes he committed and helping his daughter with an organization to support children of imprisoned parents.
During the height of his success, Lucas spent lavishly and wined and dined with former heavyweight champions Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, musical icons James Brown and Diana Ross.
He spent lavishly on cars, clothing, jewelry and entertainment, but took care of his family, before it all came to a crashing conclusion in 1975 when he was arrested in his New Jersey with $584, 000 in cash.
Convicted and sentenced to 70 years in federal prison, Lucas never served all that time because he ultimately became a cooperating witness in a wider inquiry led to his release in 1982. He was convicted of new drug charges in 1984 and imprisoned until 1991.
He served only seven years, however, after providing information that led to the convictions of scores of associates and crooked officials.
The government confiscated his ill gained assets in the 1970s and he lived anonymously in the federal witness protection program for years. He was a paid consultant for “American Gangster.”
According to an article in the New York Times, Lucas said he ordered and committed murders, bribed personnel in Vietnam to set up a heroin connection and paid corrupt police officers $200,000 a week.
At the peak of his empire, he claimed he was taking in $1 million a day, had $52 million stashed in Cayman Islands banks and $300 million in stockpiled heroin, and owned office buildings in Detroit, a cattle ranch in North Carolina and apartments in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Puerto Rico.
Born Frank Lucas in La Grange, N.C., on Sept. 9, 1930, to Fred and Mahalee (Jones) Lucas, he had almost no formal education, and as a boy reportedly mugged drunks. At 15 he allegedly assaulted a man, stole $400 and fled to New York. He was soon gambling and selling drugs in Harlem; his crimes later escalated to armed robberies.
Four daughters, Francine Lucas-Sinclair and Ruby, Betty and Candace Lucas; two sons, Frank Jr. and Tony Walters; many grandchildren and great-grandchildren; two sisters, Mattie Lassiter and Emma Moye; and three brothers, Ezell, Lawrence and LeVon Lucas, survive Lucas. His wife, Julie, and another son, Ray, died before him. Funeral services were pending at press time.