This is Nucky Johnson. The real Nucky*. I was the boss of the Boardwalk for much of the first half of the 20th century. HBO has taken my life and fictionalized it in “Boardwalk Empire.” OK, so be it. But I get my say, too, as I always have. And you’ll hear from me here, every Monday and Friday in The Press of Atlantic City, and at: Boardwalkempireblog.com
Edward L. Bader was one of Atlantic City’s most important denizens. I’m glad they introduced Bader on Sunday’s episode of “Boardwalk Empire” — with TV’s Nucky wooing him to become mayor.
Bader was Atlantic City’s mayor during the 1920s, but he was successful well before my reign. He carried a flair and panache that only a handful have captured since.
Bader was born in Philadelphia, attending school until the age of 13, when he dropped out to earn his own living. His family couldn’t afford further education at the time, and his early difficulties with school inspired him to champion educational growth in Atlantic City.
During his youth, he was a farm helper, a newsboy and a dental and veterinary student. He played for a professional football team.
And then he moved to Atlantic City in 1902, to manage his father’s garbage disposal company.
Two years later, he entered the contracting business — and soon started gathering important contracts in the resort. Roads were an important part of that endeavor, including the paving of Albany Avenue.
Bader Field, the city’s airport established by people looking for a port for their seaplanes, was named for him.
Bader turned to politics in 1920, was elected to the commission, and from there was designated mayor.
Digging through my files recently, I found an election flier for Bader’s (successful) re-election campaign, and some of the sentences made me smile.
“His honesty is unquestioned and while, like all other public officials, he has been assailed by his opponents, not one definite charge has been preferred against him,” the flier states.
Yes, a bit flowery, a bit biased. But Bader stood up for the people. In 1923 he spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan meeting in Atlantic City.
Bader pushed forward the idea of city residents helping to organize and run a beauty pageant that you now know as Miss America.
In 1927, Mayor Bader died. Fifty-two years old. He was too young. He accomplished a lot. And his name still carries weight in the city.
* Yes, you’re correct. The real Nucky died in 1968. But Michael Clark and Dan Good — reporters for The Press of Atlantic City — have researched his life and are writing this blog from his point of view. They also are inserting the “how it really happened” when possible, using the “Boardwalk Empire” book, unpublished documents, interviews and newspaper accounts from the time to share the history.