Robert "Nudie" Mims, 69, a founding member of the Philadelphia Black Mafia serving life in prison for a notorious 1971 robbery and murder, died Monday, July 9, at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Faribault, said Sarah Berg, spokeswoman for that state's Department of Corrections.

In 1995, Mims was transferred to Minnesota because authorities said he wielded too much influence over other inmates in Pennsylvania prisons, particularly Graterford, where he allegedly controlled criminal operations.

On Jan. 4, 1971, a gang of eight led by Mims robbed Dubrow's Furniture Store at 417 South St. The armed men tied up 20 employees, beating and pistol-whipping many. Two victims were shot, one fatally. One was doused with gasoline and set on fire. The gang then tried to burn the store down.

Then-Police Commissioner Frank L. Rizzo called the crime "the most vicious . . . I have ever come across."

Author W.E.B. Griffin wrote a novel, The Witness, based on the incident.

Mims fled to Chicago, where he served as a bodyguard for Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, before finally surrendering, according to Philadelphia's "Black Mafia": A Social and Political History by Sean Patrick Griffin.

While serving a life sentence at Graterford, Mims allegedly arranged for drugs and even prostitutes to be smuggled into the prison. He allegedly also ran a heroin ring in Northwest Philadelphia.

As the imam of the prison's 1,800-member Muslim population, he reportedly had an office and phone.

In 1995, 650 state troopers and corrections officers swept the prison for drugs and weapons. Mims and other inmates considered to be drug dealers and troublemakers were transferred.

A corrections officer recalled afterward an incident two years earlier in which the staff tried to get 100 inmates to move during an evacuation drill. They refused.

"I said, 'OK, go get the imam and tell him I need him to move these people,' " the officer, Cynthia Link, said. "He came over and waved his hand, and it was done."

Information on funeral arrangements was not available Monday night.

Contact Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or, or follow @RobertMoran on Twitter.