As we head into the December period we look back and celebrate the birth of Gaetano Lucchese, who was a founding member of the American Mafia. From 1951 until his death in 1967 he headed up his own crime family, the Lucchese Crime Family, who were one of the main five families that controlled organized crime in New York.
Lucchese was born to Baldassarre and Francesca in Palermo, Sicily, but like many other families of the generation they made a move to the United States when Lucchese was 10 years old, settling in East Harlem.
He got his nickname Tommy Three-Finger Brown after a machinery accident amputated both his right thumb and forefinger at the age of 15. The name Three-Finger Brown was taken from a major league baseball pitcher of the time, called Mordecai Brown who suffered an accident at the age of 7 when a corn shredder disfigured his hand.
The Overlooked Mob Boss
Many people never think of Lucchese when talking about major mob bosses of the 20th century, maybe because he was a low-key boss, who knows.
However, In 1962, Carlo Gambino’s eldest son, Thomas Gambino, married Lucchese’s daughter Frances. It was said that over 1,000 guests attended the wedding, at which Carlo Gambino presented Lucchese with a $30,000 gift. In return, Lucchese gave Gambino a part of his rackets at John F. Kennedy Airport (which was called Idlewild).
Lucchese exercised control over airport management security and all the airport unions, and as a team, Lucchese and Gambino now controlled the airport, the Commission, and most organized crime in New York City.
The Death of Tommy Lucchese
On July 13, 1967, Tommy Lucchese died of a brain tumor at his home in the Lido Beach area of Long Island. Over 1,000 mourners, including politicians, judges, policemen, racketeers, drug pushers, pimps, and hitmen, attended the ceremony. Undercover policemen photographed the attendees.
At the time of his death, he had not spent a day in jail in 44 years.