Colombo, Joseph (1923-1978)

Born Brooklyn, NY, June 16, 1923.

Died Blooming Grove, NY, May 22, 1978.

Joseph Colombo was among the more outspoken of the New World Mafia chieftains. After rising to power in what was previously the Profaci Family in the mid-1960s, he founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League in 1970 and actively sought publicity. Claiming that reports and rumors of the Mafia were designed to damage the reputation of Italian-Americans, he conducted public rallies, spoke frequently with the press and used his League to picket the FBI offices.

It is believed that Colombo came to power through the influence of Carlo Gambino after Colombo informed on a plot by then-Profaci Family boss Joseph Magliocco and Joseph Bonanno to assassinate bosses Gambino and Tommy Lucchese.

The Commission, particularly Carlo Gambino, quickly grew tired of the media attention Colombo and the rest of organized crime were getting as a result of Italian-American Civil Rights League activities. It is believed that the Gambino-dominated Commission ordered Colombo's death in 1971. The rebellious Gallo element in Colombo's family (Joey Gallo had recently been released from prison) or a more conservative faction which wanted to take a harder line against the Gallo group were possibly involved in the murder.

Colombo was mortally wounded during a League Italian Unity Day rally on June 28, 1971. A man named Jerome Johnson, disguised as a news photographer, approached Colombo and shot him three times in the head and neck with an automatic pistol. Johnson was wrestled to the ground, and a second unknown gunman shot him to death with a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson. The second gunman escaped.

Colombo lapsed into a coma and remained unconscious until his death on May 22, 1978.

Joe Bonanno considered Colombo one of the instigators of trouble within the Bonanno Family in the early 1960s. Bonanno claimed that Colombo was working directly with Buffalo's Stefano Magaddino (a relative of Bonanno's) and indirectly with Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese to take over Bonanno's organization.

Colombo, born June 16, 1923, was raised in south Brooklyn. His father, Anthony Colombo, was a member of the Profaci crime family. In 1938, when Joseph was a teenager, Anthony Colombo and girlfriend Christine Oliveri were found strangled to death in Colombo's car.

Joseph Colombo had a brief and unsuccessful career in the Coast Guard, from which he was discharged due to emotional problems. He worked as a longshoreman and a real estate agent, and, for a time, as a salesman for a meat company run by the Gambino and Castellano families.