Joe Morgan (10 April 1929 – 9 November 1993)
is most notable for being "the Godfather" of the Mexican Mafia.
Despite his Croatian roots he eventually became a highly influential
member of the prison gang and played a very instrumental part in the
organizing and legitimizing of the Mexican Mafia.
Morgan was born in San Pedro, CA to an American
father and Croatian mother. He was raised by his Catholic Croatian
mother and grew up in a Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles. In the
late 1930s he joined what was believed to be the first Maravilla
In 1946, Morgan beat to death the husband of his
32-year-old girlfriend, and buried the body in a shallow grave. While
he was awaiting trial, he escaped using the identification papers of a
fellow inmate awaiting transfer to a forestry camp. He was recaptured
and sentenced to 9 years at San Quentin State Prison. He is the
youngest person to ever be sent to San Quentin. He was only 17 at the
In 1955 he was called in as a witness in a trial
that involved the death of another inmate who was released on parole;
instead, he led 11 inmates in a jailbreak from Los Angeles County Jail.
He fled to Utah in 1976 and was captured a year later, with charges
that included trafficking firearms, which resulted in a five-year
sentence; 2 hours later, he was caught in possession of heroin, so the
court gave him a sentence of 2 to 10 years behind bars.
The first prison gang street execution in Los
Angeles was committed by the Mexican Mafia in 1971. Responsible for
the murder was the gang member of Croatian Catholic descent Joe "Pegleg"
Morgan. Morgan was well respected within the ranks of the Mexican
Mafia and became a high ranking member. His connections with cocaine
and heroin suppliers in Mexico helped pave the foundation for the
Mexican Mafia's narcotics distribution throughout California.
Morgan spent his last few living days at Corcoran
Prison hospital suffering from liver cancer.
In 1992, the film American Me was released,
which was based on the history of the Mexican Mafia. A principal
supporting character is J.D. (played by William Forsythe), a white
Mafia member who has an artificial leg. Edward James Olmos (the
movie's writer/director/star) attempted to visit Morgan in hopes that
he would gain his approval of the movie. Morgan refused to see him and
filed a lawsuit against Edward James Olmos and Universal Studios based
on the inaccuracies shown in the film.
It has been alleged that at least two people were
killed as a result of this film including former Mexican Mafia members
and affiliates who had served as advisers during the making of the
movie. It later came out that one of these people was also involved in
prostitution and drug activity. It is speculation that these people
were killed as a result of their role in the making of the movie.
He died of cancer on 9 November 1993.
Joe "Pegleg" Morgan