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By the 1960s, gangster and drug kingpin Frank Lucas had constructed an international drug ring that spanned from New York to South East Asia.
Frank Lucas - Superfly (3:10)
After almost falling into obscurity, an article on Frank in New York Magazine prompted Universal Studios to buy the rights to make the film "American gangster."
As Frank Lucas' drug trade grew he began to expand his look and personal wealth, dubbing himself Superfly after the 1970's blacksploitation film of the same name.
While trying to expand his supply of heroin beyond the Italian mafia, Frank Lucas set his sights on a drug supply out of Vietnam at the height of the Vietnam War.
As Frank began to live the life of a criminal, his foray into the drug trade also began to grow. Soon he would find himself in a position to become one of Harlem's most notorious drug dealers.
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Born September 9, 1930, in La Grange, North Carolina, Frank Lucas moved to Harlem in 1946 where he entered the world of street crime. By the 1960s, he had constructed an international drug empire that spanned from New York to South East Asia. Killings, extortion, and bribery were his modus operandi. Lucas had millions in cash and property in several cities when he was busted in 1975.
Born September 9, 1930, in La Grange, North Carolina, Frank Lucas was a country boy who grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. As with many larger-than-life personalities, the biography of Frank Lucas is shrouded in fact, mystery and myth, much of which has been perpetuated by Lucas himself.
Lucas grew up in rural North Carolina during the depths of the Great Depression. Many Americans in the rural South were poor at this time, but most African-Americans suffered the deepest poverty. Lucas spent much of his early youth looking after his younger siblings and getting into trouble. He has claimed that the one incident that sparked his life of crime was witnessing the murder of his cousin. He was only six years old when five members of the Ku Klux Klan, shrouded in sheets and hoods, showed up one night at the shack where he was living. The men killed Lucas's 13-year-old cousin on the spot, claiming he had looked at a white woman in a flirtatious way. But, like much of the folklore surrounding Frank Lucas, investigators have never uncovered evidence to support his claim.
As the oldest boy in the family, Lucas had to find ways for the family to survive. With the Depression raging on, it was difficult to obtain and hold a job, so he resorted to stealing food. Later, as he got older and stronger, he found some success mugging intoxicated customers outside the local tavern. In his later teen years, he got a job working as a truck driver for a pipe company until he was caught in the act of sleeping with the boss' daughter. In the ensuing fight, Lucas hit the father on the head with a pipe, knocking him out cold. He then stole $400 from the company till and set the establishment on fire. Fearing he would be arrested and jailed for much of his life, his mother pleaded with him to flee to New York.
Frank Lucas arrived in Harlem in the summer of 1946. People told him to be smart and get a decent job as an elevator operator or door man at a hotel. But Lucas saw how real money was made on the streets, through illegal gambling and drugs. With each ensuing crime, he became more bold and ruthless. He first robbed a local bar at gunpoint. Then he stole a tray of diamonds from a jewelry store, breaking a guard's jaw with a slug from his brass knuckles. Feeling confident, he brazenly broke into a high-stakes crap game at local club and robbed all the players. Then, in the summer of 1966, on a crowded sidewalk, Lucas shot a local thug who reneged on a dope deal. His efforts caught the eye of Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, a long-time Harlem gangster who controlled gambling and extortion operations.
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