Joseph Francis Civello was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on 3rd February, 1902. As a young man he moved to Dallas. He was an expert marksman and regularly participated in shooting competitions. In July 1928, he was arrested for the murder of Joe DeCarlo at the St. Paul Drug Store in the city. Later the charges against him were dropped.
In the early the 1930s he established the Civello Gang that was involved in bootlegging and narcotics trafficking. During this period Civello was associated with Lucky Luciano.
In January 1937, Civello was arrested by the FBI. The agents seized more than $150,000 of drugs. Civello was sentenced to 15 years in Leavenworth, and five others of the Civello gang were given lesser sentences.
After his release from prison, Civello resumed his organized criminal activities in Dallas. On the death of Joseph Piranio in 1956, Civello became head of the mafia in Dallas. As a cover he ran Civello's Fine Foods & Liquor Store. In 1957 Civello took part in what became known as Apalachin Meeting at the ghome of Joseph Barbara. The house was raided and over 60 underworld bosses were arrested at the meeting called to elect a replacement for the assassinated mafia leader, Albert Anastasia. Civello was initially sentenced to five years for his involvement in organized crime, but after retaining defense attorney Percy Foreman, the conviction was reversed on appeal in 1961.
Civello was friendly with Jack Ruby. According to Anthony Summers, Civello worked closely with Carlos Marcello and ran his Dallas operations. In his book, The Kennedy Conspiracy (2002), Summers claims that Civello was "widely acknowledged to have been Texas representative for Carlos Marcello, the New Orleans crime boss alleged to have spoken of plans to murder the President".
Civello continued as head of the mafia in Dallas and in 1964 the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations reported that Civello controlled "all rackets in Dallas and the vicinity."
Joseph Francis Civello died on 17th January, 1970.