New York gangland legend Nicky Barnes died seven years ago and it was just revealed this weekend by The New York Times. The storied dapper drug kingpin ran the Harlem heroin trade in the 1970s, heading a consortium of African-American crime bosses known as, “The Council.” Barnes succumbed to cancer in 2012 at 78 years old.
Back at the height of his power in 1977, Barnes graced the cover of The New York Times Magazine in a finely-tailored double-breasted grey suit and a red, white and blue tie with a headline reading “Mr. Untouchable.” The audacious nature of the cover shoot and accompanying profile piece drew the ire of the Feds and President Jimmy Carter. Less than a year later, he was indicted for narcotics and racketeering.
Following a guilty verdict and feeling betrayed by his lieutenants on The Council, Barnes stunned the New York underworld and became a witness for the government. With Barnes’ help, U.S. prosecutors dismantled the drug world ruling body he himself conceived and constructed.
From serving time in prison in the 1960s, Barnes forged ties to juiced-in Italian mobsters like “Crazy Joey” Gallo of the Colombo crime family and Matty Madonna is the Luchese clan. Gallo advised Barnes in his implementation of a mafia-like business structure in the Harlem drug racket he ran upon his release. Madonna was his main supplier.
Barnes quietly left prison in the summer of 1998 and was given a new identity. He penned a book titled Mr. Untouchable that was released in 2007. His protege and successor as top dog The Council, Guy Fisher remains behind bars. Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. gave a rather cartoonish portrayal of Barnes in the film 2007 American Gangster about his Harlem heroin chief counterpart Frank Lucas played by Denzel Washington.
This article was originally posted here