Bootlegger Abner Zwillman was considered the ‘Al Capone of NJ’
It was on July 27th, 1904 that Abner “Longie” Zwillman was born in Newark. He would go on to rise in prominence in the criminal underworld, particularly in New Jersey.
After dropping out of school as a boy to help support his family, Zwillman started running numbers in Newark. During Prohibition he became wildly successful as a bootlegger, joining a rum-running syndicate, that, according to one Treasury agent, made $50 million from 1926-32. He used the proceeds from that endeavor to expand his criminal operations in New Jersey through a series of night clubs.
Zwillman was a known associate of Dutch Schultz, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, and Al Capone. When Schultz died, Zwillman took over a lot of his operation including the bulk of gambling in New Jersey. In 1951, Zwillman was called before the Kefauver hearings on organized crime, but he claimed his businesses were all legitimate. In 1959, Zwillman was called before Congress, again, this time for the McClellan Committee on organized crime; he was issued a subpoena but before he could testify, he was found hanged in his West Orange home. His death was ruled a suicide, but questions lingered about the accuracy of that determination.
Police were said to have found rope marks on his wrists, indicating he might have been restrained before the hanging. There were many theories on which crime figure, if any, might have ordered the death of Zwillman. His stepson said that Zwillman had been depressed about his health (he had heart and kidney problems), as well as looming racketeering trials.
He is buried in Union, New Jersey.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.