February 5, 2021

“In honor of Black History Month, we will be featuring a different pivotal person in the history of America whom you may not have heard of. This week we are learning about Eunice Hunton Carter, Mob Slayer…

Eunice Hunton Carter, Enemy of Organized Crime

When organized crime was dangerously close to taking over the country during Prohibition, it was not New York City law enforcement but Eunice Hunton Carter who first made the connection between racketeering and petty crimes.

Carter was born in Atlanta in 1899 to activist parents and became a social worker who practiced in New York and New Jersey before becoming the first black woman to earn a law degree from Fordham University. By 1935, she was appointed by New York City’s mayor to study crime in Harlem.  She developed a theory that Harlem streetwalkers were connected to the mob, which led to her role as an assistant district attorney under then-special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey. Her investigation revealed that when prostitutes were arrested, they all seemed to have the same lawyers, bondsmen and alibis. Her interviews brought to light that the mob was taking half of the earnings of street prostitutes in the area, providing a major source of income to organized crime. Carter’s questioning lead investigators to New York’s most powerful mob figure — Charles “Lucky” Luciano.

“This was the beginning of the end for organized crime the way it operated,” said Peter Kougasian, an assistant Manhattan district attorney. “It showed that they were not invulnerable, and it also represented an end for major political corruption as well.”

As a result of her achievement, Carter was appointed head of the D.A.’s Special Sessions Bureau. Her later work as a volunteer and in private practice championed the National Council of Negro Women, the United Nations, and the YWCA, for whom she remained a national board member until her death in 1970.

Although many have heard of Dewey for his work in diminishing the mob’s influence during the Depression, without Carter’s hustle and insights, such a huge achievement for law enforcement might never have happened.