Gangsters have long held a unique and controversial place in American history and popular culture. These larger-than-life figures, known for their involvement in organized crime, have left an indelible mark on society. From the lawless days of Prohibition to the modern era of organized crime, famous gangsters have captivated our imaginations with their audacity, cunning, and charisma. In this article, we will delve into the lives of some of the most notorious gangsters in history, exploring their rise to power, criminal exploits, and eventual downfalls.

What is a gangster

A gangster is a term typically used to describe a member of a criminal organization, often involved in organized crime activities such as extortion, racketeering, illegal gambling, drug trafficking, and violent activities. Gangsters are commonly associated with a lifestyle marked by criminality, violence, and defiance of the law.

The characteristics and activities of gangsters can vary widely depending on the time period and location. They are often involved in illegal enterprises that generate substantial profits, and they may use violence and intimidation to maintain control over their territory or operations. Gangsters are usually part of a criminal hierarchy or organization, with leaders and underlings who work together to further their criminal activities.

Historically, the term “gangster” became more prominent during the Prohibition era in the United States (1920-1933) when the production and sale of alcohol were banned, leading to the rise of organized crime groups involved in bootlegging. Prominent gangsters from this era, like Al Capone and John Dillinger, became infamous figures in American history.

In popular culture, gangsters have been the subject of countless books, movies, and television shows, often depicted as charismatic but dangerous individuals who live by their own code of conduct. While some gangsters may become iconic figures due to their criminal exploits, it’s important to remember that their actions typically involve illegal and harmful activities, and they often face legal consequences for their actions.

Types of Gangs

Gangs can vary widely in terms of their structure, activities, and motivations. They form for various reasons, including social, economic, and criminal factors. Here are some different types of gangs:

List of Most Famous Gangsters

Street Gangs

Raymond Washington

Raymond Washington was one of the co-founders of the Crips, one of the most notorious and influential street gangs in the United States. He was born on August 14, 1953, in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in the neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles. Washington, along with Stanley “Tookie” Williams, is credited with establishing the Crips gang in the late 1960s.

Tookie Williams

Tookie Williams, along with Raymond Washington, is credited with establishing the Crips gang in Los Angeles in the late 1960s. The Crips started as a neighborhood gang but eventually expanded into a nationwide and, in some cases, international criminal organization. The gang became known for its involvement in drug trafficking, violent crimes, and territorial disputes.

Larry Hoover

Larry Hoover, whose full name is Larry Hoover Sr., is a prominent figure in the history of street gangs in Chicago, particularly as the co-founder and former leader of the Gangster Disciples, one of the city’s most notorious and influential gangs.

Larry Hoover was born on November 30, 1950, in Jackson, Mississippi. He moved to Chicago as a child and became involved in street gangs during his youth. In the late 1960s, along with David Barksdale, Hoover co-founded the Black Gangster Disciple Nation, which later became known as the Gangster Disciples. The gang’s name was a combination of Hoover’s group and David Barksdale’s Black Disciple Nation, which merged to form a larger organization.

Prison Gangs

George Jackson

George Jackson was a notable American author, political activist, member of the Black Panther Party, and founding member of the Black Guerilla Family. He is perhaps best known for his influential prison writings and his involvement in the prison reform and civil rights movements during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Barry Mills

Barry Mills was a notorious figure in the American prison gang world, known for his leadership of the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang. The Aryan Brotherhood is one of the most notorious and dangerous prison gangs in the United States, with a history of violent criminal activities both inside and outside of prisons.

Motorcyle Gangs

Ralph “Sonny” Barger

Ralph Hubert “Sonny” Barger is a well-known figure in the world of outlaw motorcycle clubs, particularly as one of the founding members and longtime leaders of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. He was born on October 8, 1938, in Modesto, California.


Al Capone

Al Capone, whose full name was Alphonse Gabriel Capone, was one of the most infamous American gangsters of the 20th century. He was born on January 17, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York, and became a prominent figure in organized crime during the Prohibition era.

Charles Luciano

Charles “Lucky” Luciano, born Salvatore Lucania on November 24, 1897, and deceased on January 26, 1962, was a legendary Italian-American gangster and one of the most influential figures in the American mafia’s history. He is often referred to as the father of modern organized crime in the United States.

Stefano Magaddino

Stefano Magaddino (1891-1974) was an Italian-American mobster and a prominent figure in the American Mafia. He is best known for his leadership of the Buffalo crime family, also known as the Magaddino crime family, which operated in Western New York and parts of Ontario, Canada.

Myer Lansky

Meyer Lansky (1902-1983) was a prominent and influential figure in the world of organized crime. He is best known for his involvement in the Jewish-American mob and his association with some of the most notorious gangsters of his time.


Pablo Escobar

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria (1949-1993) was a Colombian drug lord and one of the most powerful and notorious figures in the history of the international drug trade. He was the leader of the Medellín Cartel, a powerful and violent drug trafficking organization responsible for smuggling massive quantities of cocaine into the United States and other countries.

El Chapo

“El Chapo” is the nickname of Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, a Mexican drug lord and one of the most infamous and powerful figures in the world of international drug trafficking. Guzmán, often referred to as “El Chapo” (which means “Shorty” in Spanish), gained notoriety for his leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of Mexico’s most powerful and influential drug trafficking organizations.

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