When Al Capone Was Literally Stabbed In The Back

By Nolan Moore on Saturday, April 19, 2014
AlCaponemugshotCPD
“You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.” —Al Capone

In A Nutshell

Al Capone might be the most notorious mobster in American history, but he wasn’t a match for James “Tex” Lucas. This 22-year-old bank robber wasn’t afraid of anybody. And when the Texas crook met the Chicago gangster in Alcatraz, they didn’t exactly get along.

The Whole Bushel

Despite the fact he was king of the Chicago mob, Al Capone often found himself on the wrong end of a blade. The first and most famous time someone sliced up Big Al was back when Capone was a little guy working his way up the mobster ladder. After paying a woman a rather questionable “compliment,” her brother pulled a knife and carved up Capone’s face, earning him the nickname “Scarface.”

The second time someone stabbed Capone was in 1936, long after the gangster had established himself as Public Enemy No. 1. After Capone was sentenced to 11 years for tax evasion, he did a little time in Atlanta before shipping out to the notorious Alcatraz. Once inside, Capone learned that things worked differently on the Rock. While he might have been a big man back in Illinois, he didn’t have the same respect out on the Island. He found that out the hard way when he met James “Tex” Lucas.

Now, Lucas wasn’t exactly a big believer in law and order. The young Texan was arrested for bank robbery and auto theft, and in 1934, he was sentenced to 30 years behind bars, eventually ending up in Alcatraz. Despite the fact he was 22 years old, Lucas wasn’t a man to be messed with and backed down from no one, not even the most famous mobster in the world. One day, Lucas was waiting in line at the prison barber shop when Capone cut in front. Lucas wasn’t going to stand for that and told the gangster to get back at the end of the line. Big Al wasn’t used to being told what to do and asked the young crook, “You know who I am, punk?” That’s when Lucas grabbed a pair of scissors and shoved them against Capone’s throat. “Yeah, I know who you are,” he replied, “and if you don’t get back to the end of the line, I’m going to know who you were.”

Capone went back to the end of the line.

After that moment, the other inmates lost any and all respect for King Alphonse. His reputation was further damaged after he refused to participate in a prison strike. Believing him to be a rat, several inmates tried to end the gangster’s life. One assailant hurled a sash weight at his head, another laced his coffee with lye, and one even tried to strangle him. However, James Lucas was also waiting for another crack at ol’ Scarface, and on June 23, 1936, he got his chance. As Capone was mopping up the latrine, Lucas sneaked up behind Al and stabbed him in the back with half a pair of scissors. After the attack, Lucas was tossed into solitary confinement and lost all his “good time,” a whopping 3,600 days. When asked why he’d stabbed the mob boss, Tex claimed Capone had threatened to kill him. However, Capone claimed it was because he wouldn’t loan Lucas any money.

A few years later, Scarface stopped worrying about assassins as he lost his mind (and, eventually, his life) to syphilis. As to the man who stabbed him, Lucas went on to help kill a prison guard in an escape attempt and was sentenced to life. Despite his crimes, Lucas was eventually paroled in 1958, and excluding a short prison stint for violating parole, lived a relatively crime-free life afterward. He even got married and started a family before passing away in 1998. You’ve got to wonder if the people attending his funeral knew they were mourning the man who stabbed Al Capone in the back.

Show Me The Proof

Crime Library: Al Capone—Scarface
The Free Lance-Star: Al Capone Knifed In Prison Tussle
National Park Service: Alcatraz Island—The Man Who Tried to Kill Al Capone
The Encyclopedia of American Prisons, by Carl Sifakis

  • Nathaniel A.

    This is the kind of story that makes you wonder who is good and who is bad in it. Capone really shouldn’t have backed down in the ’34 incident. Though to be fair, he did stick his neck out a great deal by cutting the line.

    • Hillyard

      From what I’ve read the rules the prisoners make for themselves are more strictly enforced than the ones made by the authorities.

    • inconspicuous detective

      maybe not but he may have died in 1934 instead of later, had he decided to fight for the thirty – third spot in line.

  • Hillyard

    So on the ‘Rock’ the great and mighty Al Capone was reduced to just another con, just another number.

  • Clyde Barrow

    ‘The Rock’ was full of Depression era gangsters and bank robbers from it’s opening in ’34, through the 1960’s. It didn’t matter who you were on the outside, all that mattered is how you conducted yourself on the inside. Big Al learned that lesson the hard way.

    • inconspicuous detective

      you would know, clyde. how’s bonnie these days? giving you the cold shoulder still? it’s never any different with you corpses, is it?

      also, you’re very right. capone probably was in no shape to show force without some henchmen to do it for him when faced down with that kid. poor time to have some courage if you ask me….

      • Clyde Barrow

        Oh, my sweet Bonnie is just fine. Well, for being dead the last 80 years, and all. Luckily, a steady supply of human flesh & brains keeps us zombies going.

        Oh, BTW, when you reach the other side, watch out for a guy named Beetlejuice. He’s somewhat of a pest…

        • TheMadHatter

          Beetle juice gave me the creeps for a week.

          • Clyde Barrow

            He’s got that effect on folks…

          • TheMadHatter

            Beetle Juice, Beetle Juice, Beetle Juice!
            I’m not gonna sleep for a week now…

  • percynjpn

    “Yeah, I know who you are,” he replied, “and if you don’t get back to the end of the line, I’m going to know who you were.”

    Very good.