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‘Boardwalk Empire’s’ Nucky VS Real-Life Nucky

nucky thompson
HBO

Many New Jersey 101.5 listeners are enjoying season 2 of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire based on Hammonton, NJ resident Nelson Johnson’s novel Boardwalk Empire.

Nelson Johnson completed his novel in 1999 and it took 2 years for him to find a publisher.  The novel Boardwalk Empire chronicles the lives of Atlantic City’s political bosses from 1900 to 1970.  The bosses include Commodore Lewis Kuehnle, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson and Frank S. Hap Farley.

The majority of the books chapters focus on the life and times of Nucky Johnson, as does the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

Here is a quick look of Nucky Thompson vs. Nucky Johnson

Nucky Thompson

Nucky Thompson is the corrupt political boss of Atlantic City who is always thinking two steps ahead of his enemies!  Nucky seized the passing of Prohibition as an opportunity to get even richer through bootlegging.  Nucky is a loved benefactor of the residents of  Atlantic City and also serves as County  Treasurer.  Nucky is aware of all the illegal enterprises happening in the county and the town–and profits off all of them.

nucky
Alfred M. Heston Collection of the Atlantic City Free Library

Nucky Johnson

Enoch “Nucky” Johnson was born in Galloway Township in 1883.  His father Smith Johnson was a farmer and sheriff of Atlantic County.  Nucky’s mother  was Virginia Higbee.  Unlike Nucky Thompson, Johnson stood 6″ 1′ and checked in a 250 pounds and was a commanding presence on the boardwalk in all of AC’s speakeasy’s!  Like TV’s Nucky, Mr. Johnson was driven around town in a powder blue Rolls Royce and wore flashy suits with his trademark red carnation.

Nucky became sheriff of Atlantic County in 1908 and served in the roll until 1911.  Later in 1911 Nucky became the leader of the Republican party in Atlantic County and enjoyed the greatest amount of power and wealth during prohibition in the 1920s.  Much of this wealth was from his corrupt dealings in booze, gambling and prostitution.

Nucky once said “I won’t deny it, and I won’t apologize for it. If the majority of the people didn’t want them, they wouldn’t be profitable and they wouldn’t exist. The fact that they do exist proves to me that the people want them.”
One of the chapters in the book is “High Times For Nucky.”  Those high times were from 1920 to 1933.  In 1933 prohibition was repealed and that put a major dent in the convention and tourist industry as well as Nucky’s income.  In 1939 Nucky was indicted for income tax evasion.  In 1941 he was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Johnson was paroled in 1945.  After his release from prision he and his wife Florence attended may Atlantic City social events.
nuckyandflorence
Atlantic City Free Library

Nucky Johnson died at December 9, 1968 at the Atlantic County Convalescent Home in Northfield.

You can visit his grave at the Zion United Methodist Church Cemetery in Egg Harbor Township.

Nucky AP Obit

nuckygrave
photo by Marilyn Lockwood

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