As we approach the end of Boardwalk Empire, currently in its final season, it’s natural to wonder if the series’ lead character, Nucky Thompson, will survive the finale. Honestly, it’s hard to say. While the series nails the big historical moments in the lives of Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, Salvatore Maranzano, Meyer Lansky, and others (with lots of dramatic liberties), Nucky Thompson isn’t that similar to his real-life inspiration, Enoch Johnson.
There are some similarities: Both Nucky Thompson and Enoch Johnson began as undersheriffs, both ended up with filling many different positions in Atlantic City, and both ended up running the Atlantic City political machine, making a fortune, and living extravagant lifestyles from their rooms in the Ritz Carlton. They were also both famous for their red carnations.
They also both had first wives named Mabel, although the real-life Nucky’s first wife died of consumption (while Mabel in the television show killed herself after Nucky neglected her following the death of their son). The real-life Nucky never married a woman Margaret, however.
Real-life Nucky, however, did marry again. He married a showgirl named Florence “Flossie” Osbeck in 1941, ten days before he entered prison. Indeed, the real-life Nucky Johnson’s hold over Atlantic City ended the same way that Al Capone’s hold over Chicago did: They were both convicted of tax evasion. Capone was convicted in 1931 (the same year that Boardwalk Empire is set in its final season), while Nucky Thompson was later sentenced to a decade in prison because of income he received from numbers operators. He served four years, and got out in 1945.
Following his prison sentence, the real-life Nucky Johnson lived a fairly quiet life with his wife and brother. He worked in sales, and continued to attend the occasional political dinner. In fact, because of his enduring popularity with the black popular of Atlantic City, he could still help to swing an election every now and then.
Nucky Johnson died in a convalescent home in New Jersey in 1968. He was 85 years old.
Here he is with his soon-to-be wife, Flossie, both before prison, and then, much later in life.
Here’s his obituary.
Here’s his final resting place: A mausoleum with his parents. Both his wives are buried alongside him.