Mayme Hatcher Johnson and What Happened to Bumpy Johnson’s Wife and Daughters

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Dec 06, 2023

Before becoming the renowned wife of a Harlem gangster, Mayme Hatcher Johnson’s story began in North Carolina, 1914. Seeking a better life, Mayme Johnson moved to New York City in 1938. Her journey from the rural South to the bustling streets of Harlem marked a significant transition in her life.

In New York, she found work as a server, a job that would lead her to a fateful encounter with Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, the legendary gangster. This move not only changed her geographical location but also set the stage for her to become a significant figure in Harlem’s history.

Meeting Bumpy Johnson

It was in a Harlem restaurant where Mayme Hatcher Johnson first crossed paths with Bumpy Johnson. The year was 1948, a time when Harlem was pulsating with jazz and the complexities of postwar America.

Bumpy Johnson

Source: United States Federal Bureau of Prisons/Wikipedia

Their meeting wasn’t just a chance encounter; it was the beginning of a partnership that would become legendary in Harlem’s annals. Mayme often recounted how being known as Bumpy’s girl opened doors and brought her a mix of admiration and envy from others.

The Power Couple of Harlem

After marrying Bumpy, Mayme Hatcher Johnson quickly became known as more than just his wife; she was his partner, his confidant, and a respected figure in her own right. Their relationship brought her into the limelight, and with it came both privileges and challenges.

Bumpy and Mayme Johnson

Source: TGTime

Mayme’s life was a blend of glamour and turmoil, reflective of Bumpy’s complex world. Despite the challenges, she navigated her new role with grace, becoming a beloved and influential figure in the Harlem community.

Life Through Bumpy's Incarceration

Mayme Hatcher Johnson’s resilience was most tested during Bumpy’s incarceration at Alcatraz. For 10 long years, she maintained her life and their relationship despite the physical separation.

Bumpy Johnson in jail

Source: UGC

This period was a testament to her strength and commitment, as she balanced her personal life with the public’s perception of her as Bumpy Johnson’s wife. Her unwavering support during his imprisonment highlighted her loyalty and the depth of their bond.

Mayme Hatcher Johnson's Charitable Work

Apart from her association with Bumpy, Mayme Hatcher Johnson was known for her charitable heart. Her involvement in St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Harlem was a significant aspect of her life.

Mayme Johnson

Source: Featured Biography

Through various volunteer activities, she made a substantial impact on the community. Her philanthropy and dedication to helping others showed a different side of her, distinct from the glamour and challenges of being married to a gangster.

Mayme Hatcher Johnson Became an Author

In her 90s, Mayme Hatcher Johnson achieved a personal milestone by becoming an author. Her book “Harlem Godfather” was a passion project that offered an intimate look into her life with Bumpy.

Mayme Johnson Book

Source: Amazon

It was her way of setting the record straight, telling their story from her perspective. The book’s release was a proud moment for her, showcasing her determination to share her narrative and preserve their legacy.


Bumpy Johnson’s Legacy

When did Bumpy Johnson die? That day came in July 1968 due to congestive heart problems. Bumpy Johnson left an indelible mark on Harlem’s history. His life as a gangster, portrayed in films and folklore, often overshadowed other aspects of his character.

Bumpy Johnson

Source: History Defined

However, through Mayme Hatcher Johnson’s accounts and her book, a more nuanced picture of Bumpy emerges. His legacy, as seen through her eyes, offers a more personal and complex understanding of the man behind the myth.


What Happened to Bumpy Johnson's daughter, Ruthie?

Ruthie Johnson, the daughter of Mayme Hatcher Johnson and Bumpy Johnson, led a life far from the public eye. Unlike her parents, Ruthie chose a path of relative obscurity, keeping her personal life private.

Bumpy Johnson and Flash Walker

Source: Medium

Little is known about her, except for the fact that she died in 2006. Ruthie’s story, though less documented, is still an essential part of the Johnson family narrative.


Elease Johnson's Turbulent Journey

Bumpy Johnson’s daughter, Elease, from a previous relationship, had a life marked by challenges. Raised by Bumpy and Mayme Hatcher Johnson, Elease’s life was complicated by her father’s criminal activities and her own personal struggles.

Elease Johnson

Source: Veryceleb

Her journey through addiction and hardship reflects the darker side of the glamour associated with being part of Bumpy Johnson’s family.


Margaret Johnson: Carrying the Legacy Forward

Margaret Johnson, Mayme Hatcher Johnson and Bumpy Johnson’s granddaughter, was a testament to their enduring legacy. Raised by her grandparents, she was provided with opportunities and a lifestyle that was a direct result of their influence.

Margaret and Mayme Johnson

Source: Bumpy Johnson & Johnson Family Films/Facebook

Margaret’s life, though influenced by her family’s complex history, was a bridge between the past and the present, carrying forward the Johnson family legacy into a new era.


The Philanthropic Footsteps of Margaret Johnson

Following in her grandparents’ footsteps, Margaret Johnson became known for her philanthropic work in Harlem. Her efforts in the community were a continuation of the legacy of service and charity that Mayme Hatcher Johnson and Bumpy Johnson had established.

Bumpy and Mayme Johnson

Source: Reddit

Margaret’s work in the community helped to reshape the Johnson family’s legacy, adding a layer of community service and benevolence to their story.


The Enduring Influence of Mayme Hatcher Johnson

When she died in 2009, Mayme Hatcher Johnson’s net worth was around $100,000. Her life story goes beyond her role as Bumpy Johnson’s wife. Her journey from North Carolina to Harlem, her resilience during challenging times, and her contributions to the community paint a picture of a woman of strength, complexity, and influence.

Mayme Hatcher Johnson in 2008

Source: African American Literature Book Club/YouTube

Mayme Hatcher Johnson’s legacy is a rich tapestry of personal triumphs, community service, and an enduring impact on the history of Harlem.