Friday, 17 October 2014

Frank Matthews - Pioneering Black "Mr Big"

There has always been major black gangsters in many of the big American cities but it is probably down to the racism of the domineering white gangsters, that they were never heard about.  Big time villains like Capone & Owney Madden, actually gave big breaks to many of the black jazz men & women who went on to fame & fortune, showing that despite the racism of their Underworld contemporaries, they were not.  But it was in New York that names did emerge.  From numbers king in Harlem, Eddie Jones, to Bumpy Johnson, Frank Lucas, Nicky Barnes & Frank Matthews.   Matthews was not a New Yorker but hailed from North Carolina.  He later moved from Durham, NC, to Philadelphia, where he immersed himself in the Numbers racket, but was find out how cops liked black villains making a name and money for themselves.  He was arrested and given a choice to leave Philadelphia or else. He wisely chose to move on.  He arrived in the Harlem area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, living with an outgoing woman named Barbara Hinton, and they had a growing family of their own.

    He soon worked his way into the drug trade but decided against working with the Italians, as they always wanted control and the lion`s share.  He dealt with two brothers who were importing heroin on a grand scale.  Soon, he had a firm grip on heroin sold on the East Coast of the country.  His tentacles spread to L.A, Vegas, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Detroit & Cleveland.  He did not have his contacts over.  He sold top quality drugs for a fair price, but money payments were on time or else.  He was extremely ruthless on slow payers.  Within five years, he had amassed a vast fortune.  This was by 1970.  Cops were now on to him and extensive tailing soon revealed the scale of his operation.  He had a large number of men and women, whose task was to cut and bag the drugs.  He had them working shifts, something that Frank Lucas also did.  Finally, in July 1972, addresses were raided and huge amounts of drugs were seized.  But Matthews evaded the raids but eventually, the following year, he was arrested in Las Vegas.  Extradited back to New York, he posted bail, then vanished.  He allegedly disappeared with his girlfriend, a minder, and up to $20,000,000, but has never been seen since.  Nicky Barnes took over remnants of his empire.