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Subject: [OBITS] James Riddle "Jimmy" Hoffa
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2008 20:09:57 -0000
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James Riddle "Jimmy" Hoffa (February 14, 1913 - disappeared July 30, 1975, exact date of death unknown) was an American labor leader and criminal convict. As the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, Hoffa wielded considerable influence. After he was convicted of attempted bribery of a grand juror, he served nearly a decade in prison. He is also well-known in popular culture for the mysterious circumstances surrounding his unexplained disappearance and presumed death. His son James P. Hoffa is the current president of the Teamsters.
Born February 14, 1913(1913-02-14)
Brazil, Indiana, U.S.
Died (disappeared July 30, 1975)
Last seen in Bloomfield Township, MI
Occupation Labor union leader
Children James P. Hoffa, Barbara Ann Crancer
Born in Brazil, Indiana, on Feb. 14, 1913, his paternal ancestors were Pennsylvania Germans ("Pennsylvania Dutch") who migrated to Indiana in the mid-1800s. His maternal ancestors were Irish-American. James grew up fast when his coal driller father John Cleveland Hoffa, died from lung disease in 1920. His mother Viola "Ola" Riddle, took in laundry to keep the family together and the children also helped with after school jobs. Hoffa later described his mother lovingly as a frontier type woman "who believed that Duty and Discipline were spelled with capital D's."
In 1922, the Hoffas moved to Clinton, Indiana, for a two year stay, then to Detroit to an apartment on Merritt Street on the city's brawling, working-class west side.
Tagged by the neighbor kids as hillbillies, Hoffa won respect and acceptance with his fists.
After school Jimmy worked as a delivery boy and finally dropped out of school in the 9th grade just as the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression brought massive layoffs and business failures.
A friend, Walter Murphy, told him to get into the food business. "No matter what happens, people have to eat," he said. Jimmy got a job at the Kroger Grocery and Baking Company, whose warehouses were located just a few blocks from his home. Lying to the foreman about his age, Hoffa began his job of unloading produce from railroad cars for 32 cents an hour.
The pay, two-thirds of it scrip redeemable for food at Kroger's, was good considering the growing unemployment and food lines. The downside to the new job was that warehouse workers were required to report at 4:30 p.m. for a 12-hour shift, but they only got paid for the time that they actually unloaded produce. The rest of the shift, they would sit around idle and unpaid, waiting to be called but unable to leave the premises.
The men also endured a foreman from hell, "the kind of guy," Hoffa later said who causes unions. Called the "Little Bastard" by all the workers, he abused his powers, threatening and firing workers for no reason.
Hoffa and his coworkers, including Bobby Holmes, who would also rise in the Teamster hierarchy with Hoffa, bided their time. The harsh reality that one third of American workers remained jobless made them cautious in their organizing efforts.
Finally one night in the spring of 1931, after two workers were fired for going to a food cart for their midnight dinner, the men acted. Hoffa called for a work stoppage just as trucks loaded with sweet juicy Florida strawberries pulled into the warehouse.
Faced with the need to get the perishable cargo into refrigerators quickly, Kroger management agreed to meet with the new leaders the following morning as long as the workers resumed their duties.
After several days of negotiating, Hoffa and his aides had a union contract. It included a raise of 13 cents an hour, the guarantee of at least a half a day's pay per day, a modest insurance plan, and of course, recognition of the union. The new leaders soon applied for and received a charter as Federal Local 19341 of the American Federation of Labor.
Hoffa was fired the following year after a fight with a plant foreman who goaded the hot-tempered union leaders into throwing a crate of vegetables on the floor and spraying the boss with assorted vegetable juices. Jimmy claimed in later years that he quit before he could be fired and walked away.
Hoffa next landed a job as a full time union organizer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He took the Kroger union with him into the IBT where its membership was absorbed into Local 299. He and other IBT organizers fought with management in their organizing efforts in the Detroit, Michigan, area.
Hoffa used organized crime connections to shake down an association of small grocery stores. This led to his first criminal conviction, for which he paid a fine. After he rose to a leadership position in Local 299, Hoffa continued to work with organized crime in Detroit, using the threat of labor trouble to induce business to use a mobster controlled clothier (Friedman and Schwarz, 1988).
The Teamsters union organized truckers & firefighters, first throughout the Midwest and then nationwide. It skillfully used quickie strikes, secondary boycotts and other means of leveraging union strength at one company to organize workers and win contract demands at others. The union also used less lawful means to bring some employers into line.
Hoffa took over the presidency of the Teamsters in 1957, when his predecessor, Dave Beck, was convicted on bribery charges and imprisoned. Hoffa worked to expand the union and in 1964 succeeded in bringing virtually all North American over-the-road truck drivers under a single national master freight agreement. Hoffa then pushed to try to bring the airlines and other transport employees into the union. This was of great concern to many as a strike involving all transport systems would be devastating for the national economy.
President John F. Kennedy and his successor Lyndon B. Johnson both put pressure on Hoffa through John's brother Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General, attempting to investigate his activities and disrupt his ever-growing union. The Kennedys in particular were sure that Hoffa had pocketed a great deal of union money. Having expelled the Teamsters in the 1950s, the AFL-CIO also disliked Hoffa and aided the Democrats in their investigations.
Ultimately, Hoffa was not nearly as beholden to the Mob as to his successor and longtime crony Frank Fitzsimmons, who would have been jailed if he had not died from cancer. While Hoffa was a brilliant tactician who knew how to play one employer against another and who used the union's power to rationalize the industry by driving out weaker employers, "Fitz" was content to gather the other benefits of high office. The deregulation of the trucking industry pushed by Edward Kennedy and others during Fitzsimmons' tenure eventually destroyed much of what Hoffa had won for his members under the National Master Freight Agreement by making it much harder to maintain the standards Hoffa had achieved.
Hoffa's son, James P. Hoffa, is the Teamsters' current leader; his daughter, Barbara Ann Crancer, currently serves as an associate circuit court judge in St. Louis, Missouri.
Conviction and disappearance
In 1964, Hoffa was convicted of attempted bribery of a grand juror and jailed for 15 years. On December 23, 1971, however, he was released when President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence to time served on the condition he not participate in union activities for 10 years. Hoffa was planning to sue to invalidate that restriction in order to reassert his power over the Teamsters when he disappeared at, or sometime after, 2:45 pm on July 30, 1975 from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Oakland County, Michigan , a suburb of Detroit. He had been due to meet two Mafia leaders, Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone from Detroit and Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano from Union City, New Jersey and New York City.
Investigations into his disappearance
DNA evidence examined in 2001 placed Hoffa in the car of longtime Teamster associate Charles "Chuckie" O'Brien, who has been described as Hoffa's "foster son", despite O'Brien's claims Hoffa had never been in the car. Police interviews later that year failed to produce any indictments.
In July 2003, after the convicted killer Richard Powell told authorities that a briefcase containing a syringe used to subdue Hoffa was buried at a house in Hampton Township, Michigan, another backyard was examined and excavated. Again, nothing was found.
In 2003, the FBI searched the backyard of a home in Hampton Township, Michigan formerly frequented by Frank Sheeran, Second World War veteran, Mafia hitman, truck driver, Teamsters official and close friend of Hoffa. Nothing significant was found.
In 2004, Charles Brandt, a former prosecutor and Chief Deputy Attorney General of Delaware, published the book I Heard You Paint Houses. The title is based on a euphemistic exchange apparently used by hitmen and their would-be employers. "I heard you paint houses." "Yes, and I do my own carpentry, too." House painting alludes to the splatter of blood on walls, and "doing my own carpentry" to the task of disposing of the body. Brandt recounted a series of confessions by Sheeran regarding Hoffa's murder, and claimed that Sheeran had begun contacting him because he wished to assuage feelings of guilt. Over the course of several years, he spoke many times by phone to Brandt (which Brandt recorded) during which he acknowledged his role as Hoffa's killer, acting on orders from the Mafia. He claimed to have used his friendship with Hoffa to lure him to a bogus meeting in Bloomfield Hills and drive him to a house in northwestern Detroit, where he shot him twice before fleeing and le!
aving Hoffa's body behind. An updated version of Brandt's book claims that Hoffa's body was cremated within an hour of Sheeran's departure.
In 2004, authorities in Detroit extracted floorboards from the Northwest Detroit home where Sheeran said he had shot Hoffa. However, by February 2005, the police of Bloomfield Township said that the FBI Crime Lab reported that while it was human blood from a male on the floorboards, the blood did not match Jimmy Hoffa's. It was later revealed that the DNA was destroyed due to the fact that the wrong kind of Luminol was used to find the blood remnants.
Events since February 14, 2006
On February 14, 2006, Lynda Milito, wife of Gambino crime family member Louie Milito, claimed that her husband had told her during an argument in 1988 that he had killed Hoffa and dumped his body near Staten Island's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City.
FBI Agents digging for Hoffa's remains in an open field - which is part of a farmhouse in Milford Township, Michigan on May 17, 2006. As reported by ABC station WXYZ-TV in Detroit.
In April 2006, news reports surfaced that hitman Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski had confessed to author Philip Carlo that he was part of a group of five men who had kidnapped and murdered Hoffa. The claim's credibility is questionable, as Kuklinski has become somewhat notorious for repeatedly claiming to have killed people - including Roy DeMeo - that concrete evidence has proved he could not have killed. The story forms part of the book The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer, which was released on July 1, 2006.
On May 17, 2006, acting on a tip, the FBI began digging for Hoffa's remains outside of a barn on what is now the Hidden Dreams Farm in Milford Township, Michigan where they surveyed the land and began to dig up parts of the 85-acre parcel, according to federal officials. More than 40 agents sectioned off a piece of the property where they believed Hoffa's bones might be. Federal agents would not say who tipped them off, but said they received information on a group of people who had met on the land 30 years before. The FBI has made contact with Hoffa's daughter, but no other information has been released. It is not known if the FBI has found anything, although images taken from a helicopter appeared to show agents digging something out of the ground. The investigation team included forensic experts from the bureau's Washington laboratory and anthropologists, archaeologists, engineers and architects.
On May 18, 2006, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Hoffa search was prompted by information supplied by Donovan Wells, 75, a prisoner at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, KY. The newspaper said Wells, who was jailed for 10 years in January 2004 for using his Detroit-area trucking company and drivers to ship large quantities of marijuana from Texas to Detroit from 1998-2001, was trying to parlay his knowledge about Hoffa's disappearance to get out of prison early. On May 20, 2006, the Free Press, quoting anonymous sources, said one of Wells's lawyers had threatened to go to the media during the previous year unless the US Attorney's Office acted on Wells's information and followed through on a pledge to seek his release from prison. The next day, the newspaper quoted Wells's lawyer from a 1976 criminal case, James Elsman of Birmingham, who said the FBI in 1976 had ignored Wells's offer to tell them where Hoffa was buried. The lawyer said the FBI ignored him agai!
n on May 18, after he learned that the FBI was digging in Milford Township and called the bureau to offer the information. Outraged, Elsman said he then offered the information to the Bloomfield Township Police Department. On May 22, an FBI agent and township police detective visited Elsman's office, but Elsman declined to offer much information, saying he first wanted them to provide him with a signed release from Wells. Elsman also offered to visit the horse farm to help agents pinpoint where to dig. The FBI didn't take him up on his offer.
On May 24, 2006, the FBI removed a large barn on the farm to look under it for Hoffa.
On May 30, 2006 the FBI ended the search for Hoffa's body without any remains found at the Hidden Dreams Farm.
On June 16, 2006, the Detroit Free Press published in its entirety the so-called Hoffex Memo, a 56-page report the FBI prepared for a January 1976 briefing on the case at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The report, which the FBI has called the definitive account of what agents believe happened to Hoffa, can be found.
In November of 2006 KLAS-TV Channel 8 Las Vegas interviewed author Charles Brandt about the latest news regarding Hoffa's murder and disappearance. Brandt claims that Hoffa's body was taken from the murder scene and possibly driven two minutes away to the Grand Lawn Cemetery where he was cremated.
On December 9th 2007 the E! Channel debuted the 20 Most Shocking Unsolved Crimes. The disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa was number four. The house at Beaverland and Curtis streets where Frank Sheeran allegedly killed Hoffa was highlighted along with its proximity to the Grand Lawn Cemetery in Detroit.
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