Thomas Lucchese was born on December 1, 1899, in Palermo, Italy. The family came to America in 1911 and settled into the East Harlem neighborhood of New York. His father entered the cement business, while Tommy worked in a shop as a teenager. At the age of 16, while on the job, he lost his finger and thumb.
Perhaps feeling jaded, Lucchese began to spend more time on the streets following the unfortunate mishap. Fortuitously, he grew up knowing Charlie Luciano, “Lucky,” and started the 107 Street Gang. Under the watchful eye of Mob Boss Gaetano Reina, Lucchese rose in the ranks quickly. Strong-arming for business was his forte, and he punished anyone who refused to accept their wares.
Convicted one time in 1920 for car theft, Lucchese was careful not to get caught again. After a thirteen-month stint in Sing Sing, he was released during the Prohibition years.
In ’31, a war broke out between two crime bosses, Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. Siding with Maranzano, Lucchese promised the hit of his boss, Masseria. This act of betrayal would enable Lucchese to move in on to Massaria’s cash outlets and a slide into Massaria’s spot as the boss’ number one man. He accomplished the grizzly task on April 15 and instantly became the Masseria Family Boss.
In 1951, Lucchese renamed the Massaria Family the “Lucchese” Family. He quietly governed his men, reinforcing his mob values of making cash, keeping low, and avoiding arrest. He became friendly with Mayor O’Dwyer and ruled Manhattan’s unions with an iron fist.
In 1962, his daughter Frances married Carlo Gambino’s son, Thomas. This union enabled both men to rise to the top of Manhattan’s criminal underworld. Over the next few years, they ruled the city’s airport and their respective unions. No one got in their way.
These years were golden for Lucchese. He hadn’t stepped foot in jail in decades, and he never would again. He developed a brain tumor and died on July 13, 1967, in Long Island, New York.
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Recommended Reading:Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires
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