Inspiration for ‘Boardwalk Empire’ Born in South Jersey
On January 20th, 1883, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson was born in Galloway, New Jersey. Johnson was the inspiration for the main character in HBO’s series Boardwalk Empire, Nucky Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi.
Johnson was the political Republican boss of Atlantic County and was known to dabble in things illegal. Johnson had a hand in prostitution, gambling, and, during Prohibition, alcohol. Prohibition was a particularly good era for Johnson as Atlantic City for the most part ignored the law. According to The Mob Museum, in 1929 Johnson hosted a meeting of powerful mobsters including Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Al Capone, and Bugs Moran, which gives some idea about his power and influence. His trademark was a fresh red carnation in the lapel of his custom made suits every day.
After investigative reports by William Randolph Hearst’s New York paper about Johnson and Atlantic City, the federal government put him under increased scrutiny; the feds estimated Johnson’s yearly income to be over $500,000 which, according to Wikipedia, would be about $7 million today. Johnson was put on trial three times and was finally convicted on tax evasion and began serving a 10 year sentence in 1941. He was paroled in 1944 and went back to AC but largely remained out of politics, working for an oil company and a winery. Unlike the character on Boardwalk Empire, he was not murdered. Instead, he died at age 85 while in a nursing home.