As a major witness at the 1929 Arnold Rothstein murder trial in New York City Alvin Clarence Thomas was asked how he’s making a living. The answer:”I play golf occasionally…”. This was probably the understatement of the century and a big fat lie on top.
The man was known in all states of the USA under his nickname Titanic Thompson. He brought a lot of honest people and a couple of gangsters to bet against him in all ways of imaginable gambles and won most of them. He was one of the most successful con man of his time and he played golf occasionally if he knew he could con big money.
Alvin was born in Arkansas. His father left his family when he was 5 months old and his religious stepfather raised him strictly and used him mostly as a cheap worker. When Alvin was 14 years old he left school and with 16 he left his parents to try his luck with gambling.
In his own story, published in Sports Illustrated in 1972 he described how he came to his now famous nickname:
“In the spring of 1912 I went to Joplin, Missouri, just about the time the Titanic liner hit an iceberg and sank with more than 1,500 people on board. I was in a pool room there and beat a fellow named Snow Clark out of $500. To give him a chance to get even, I bet $200 I could jump across his pool table without touching it. If you think that’s easy, try it.
But I could jump farther than a herd of bullfrogs in those days. I put down an old mattress on the other side of the table. Then I took a run and dived headfirst across the pool table. While I was counting my money, somebody asked Clark what my name was “It must be Titanic,” said Clark. “He sinks everybody.” so I was Titanic from then on.”