Leon Lucas, born in Camden, New Jersey on September 4, 1901, was the son of Polish immigrants.
At the age of 18, he was living at 1103 Louis Street, working at one of Camden’s shipyards. In late 1926, while working as a hardwood floor layer, he began boxing at the Arcadia gym in Philadelphia, living at 1539 Mount Ephraim Avenue in Camden. He won four consecutive bouts in one night on April 12, 1928, by knockout, qualifying for the AAU finals, which determined that year’s American Olympic team. He won the Amateur Athletic Union light heavyweight title by defeating Dave Maeir of Milwaukee in 1928 and competed in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam.
After returning to Camden from the Olympics, Leon Lucas turned professional, winning his first three fights, two by knockout in Philadelphia. However, in his fourth fight, he lost to King Levinsky by knockout in the 6th round, which would prove to be his last professional fight. He continued to stay around boxing and worked as a sparring partner for German heavyweight Max Schmeling in June of 1929.
After his boxing career, Leon Lucas ventured into the business world. He acquired a popular bar at 1223 Haddon Avenue from Charles E. A. “Pop” Mathews, a long-time tavern owner in Camden. The bar later became famous as Donkey’s Place and served delicious steak sandwiches on a poppy-seed roll topped with onions, becoming a Camden staple for more than seven decades.
Leon Lucas passed away in May of 1971, but his legacy lives on at Donkey’s Place, where you can still enjoy their famous steak sandwiches today!
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Robert Lee “Bob” Lucas was the son of Alice and Leon “Donkey” Lucas, later assuming responsibility for operations of Donkeys Place.
LEON LUCAS was born in Camden, New Jersey on September 4, 1901, and in addition to being an Olympic boxer, he founded a well-known South Jersey restaurant.
Donkey’s Place, at 1223 Haddon Avenue, does not appear as a bar or restaurant in the 1918-1919 Camden City Directory.
Donkey’s Place, a bar and cheesesteak landmark on Haddon Avenue, is alive and well after 61 years of operation by the Lucas family.
It is a bit of Camden in amber now, Donkey’s Place is, or maybe a shrine – the dingy bar hung with photos of the founder, his dukes perpetually up; the grill steaming with steaks and onions; the back room still swathed in the original tobacco-colored mural, a sweep of Sahara, its palms chipped and…
Her sister-in-law, Elsie Lucas, 40, of Medford, chimed in with a story about how, when she was visiting Italy a few years ago, an American woman spotted her.