From his very beginning his existence was threatened. He had a very traumatic childhood. His adult life was even more zestful than was his childhood. (Friedman 124) His sudden disappearance has remained a mystery to everyone for years. This mystery must be reexamined and ultimately solved .
What happened to James R. Hoffa, and why did it happen? These questions are only a few of the many that must be answered to solve this puzzling mystery. Before expanding on the disappearance itself, one should know who was it that disappeared. “Jimmy Hoffa was the son of an unsuccessful coal prospector in the small town of Brazil, Indiana, who died when Hoffa was only four. “(124) “Hoffa hauled laundry home in a wagon for his mother to wash, chopped and sold wood, and scraped mussel shells of the bottom of the Wabash River to sell by the ton to button makers. When his mother moved the family to Detroit , six years after her husband’s death, Jimmy hauled ashes and passed out leaflets for patent medicines at factory gates.
He quit school at fourteen in the middle of his seventh grade year, to work full time. “(133) During Hoffa’s childhood he was asked to give up his boyish ways and become the man of the house. His years as a teenager were also charged with a special kind of radiant energy. At the youthful age of seventeen Hoffa was unloading boxcars at the Kroger grocery chain warehouse in Detroit for thirty-two cents an hour. It was there that he organized his first labor strike (Franco 150). It is risks like that one that led Hoffa to becoming such a powerful figure in America.
Hoffa married at a young age and had two children, Barbara and James Jr. . While Hoffa was always a hard worker, he wasn’t always the type of man that you would like to call your friend. He wasn’t always on the side of the law that is accepted by society.
“. . . it is true that Hoffa used the thugs to climb to the top .
. . “(Brill 84). Hoffa used the underworld to obtain power, he also shared in their crimes. He made thousands of dollars in extortion schemes that bled innocent businessmen of all they had. He had set his wife up, under her maiden name, in a truck leasing company that received business from trucking companies eager to get Hoffa to go easy on the wages they had to pay their Teamsters drivers.
He had bribed members of Congress with 5 or more hundred dollar bills stuffed into a hand delivered copy of the Teamsters monthly magazine. He had siphoned off millions from Teamsters’ pension funds to make fraudulent loans to the mob. He had been convicted of mail fraud for conspiring to take money from the Central States Pension Fund to bail him out of a failing land contract. He had been convicted of jury tampering. On March 7th 1967 his last attempt for appeal was denied in a Tennessee jury tampering conviction. He had, according to one lawyer involved in the case, succeeded in ” tunneling his way into jail”.
He had converted a relatively minor misdemeanor charge of “taking money from his employer” and turned it into a felony conviction for tampering with the jury in the that case. Consequently, Hoffa was never convicted of the misdemeanor charge. On his journey to the top Hoffa also made many enemies. One such enemy was the famed politician Robert Kennedy. One particularly intriguing encounter between these two men occurred in March of 1957. Hoffa was arrested for attempting to bribe a lawyer, John Cheasty, to become a member of the McClellan Committee staff and obtain confidential committee memorandums for him(Brill 201).
The McClellan Committee was investigating the corruption and inept administration in the handling of employee benefit plans in America’s labor Unions(Internet). When Cheasty went to Robert Kennedy and told him of the offer, Kennedy arranged for the FBI to take pictures of Cheasty at street-corner meetings as he passed government documents to Hoffa in return for cash(Brill 202). With incriminating evidence such as photos of the crime this should of been as easy conviction. Coming as it did on the eve of Hoffa’s planned ascension to the Teamsters presidency, it was to have been Kennedy’s knock out blow against Hoffa(204). The ensuing trial was full of oddities and surprises.
Hoffa hired Edward Bennett Williams, a talented, yet slimy lawyer. The trial took place in a predominately black Washington D. C. , where the jury of twelve peers was made up of eight blacks.
Williams attempted to portray the prosecution’s key witness, Mr. Cheasty, as an anti-black, accusing him of having investigated the NAACP and of trying to break up the famed Alabama bus boycott. Not only were these allegations irrelevant to the trial, they were also totally groundless. Another controversial defense tactic involved a surprise appearance in the courtroom by the former heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. Louis told onlookers that Hoffa was an old friend.
Louis then greeted Hoffa and wished him well in full view of the jury. It was later discovered that Louis and Hoffa were mere acquaintances and that all of Louis’ travel expenses had been covered by Hoffa himself. While there is no solid evidence to prove it, these actions must of had great impact on the jury. The jury in this case somehow found a way to look past the damning pictures and returned a not guilty verdict after only a few hours of deliberation on July 19, 1957. (Brill 206)His many illegal acts and the plethora of enemies he made may have contributed to Hoffa’s disappearance.
Numerous people had reason enough to want Hoffa out of the way, but few had the resources nor the means to carry out such a feat. But on a hot July night in 1975, someone achieved this monumental deed. On the morning of July 31st 1975 Jimmy Hoffa Jr. received a phone call from his mother.
She was crying so hard that Jimmy Jr. thought it to be fatal to a woman with a heart condition. At last he got her to explain what had happened. His father had not come home the night before. He had been due back at 4 o’clock the previous day for a barbecue.
Hoffa Sr. has been described as a teetotaler, a boy-scout type husband who came home every night. He was meticulous, he called home if he was a going to be even a few minutes late. Hoping it was a kidnapping, the family gathered in their Lake Orion Michigan home and waited for a ransom demand. It didn’t take long for the story to break out into the media.
Jimmy Jr. answered the reporters questions in the sweltering heat outside the Lake Orion cottage. The family received 100’s of crank calls, all claiming they had Hoffa Sr. .
The family offered a $200,000 reward, that only encouraged more tormenting phone calls. (33-36)Without any real leads to go by, eventually the family had to admit to themselves that Hoffa was dead. For the family the absence of the body was nearly as bad as the murder itself. The killers had inflicted a special kind of torture on the survivors. It allowed family members to think up a new form of death every day. There would be no ending, no funeral, no rush of sorrow, followed by acceptance and no rebuilding.
There are many questions that have been left unanswered by Hoffa’s disappearance. The most obvious question is, what happened the night of July 30th? Much is known about the evening of July 30th, but not enough to convict a man for murder. Firstly, it is known that Hoffa went to the Machus Red Fox Restaurant at 2 p. m. July 30, 1975. He was there to meet fellow Teamsters members Tony Giacalone and Tony Provenzano.
There is no doubt that during this meeting the men would be discussing subjects of an illegal nature. Hoffa expected to be picked up by his associates and taken to somewhere else so they could talk in private. Neither man was ever seen at the restaurant. Both men had strong alibis when investigated by the police. Witnesses did provide the police with enough information to surmise that a mutual friend of all three men, Chuckie O’Brien, and at least two other men did pick up Hoffa in Giacalone’s car.
(36-40)Everyone who investigated the case seems to agree that O’Brien was driving the car in which Hoffa was abducted. the only real question left is whether he was an unwitting dupe in the murder, used to lure Hoffa into the car without knowing what was going to happen, or if he was involved in the planning. Whatever the case, he would still know, and be able to testify about, what happened after Hoffa got in the car and who was there. (Franco 158)Eye witness accounts were substantiated by a police investigation that proved Hoffa was in the back seat of the car. Hoffa was picked up at approximately 2:45.
At this point in the evening Hoffa still though that he was going to meet Giacalone and Provenzano. From this point on all information is at best a logical assumption. The police had surmised that Hoffa was knocked out with some sort of object. This is believed because of the very small traces of blood and hair found in the back seat of the car. These blood and hair samples have been proven to be Hoffa’s. It was not possible to shoot or stab him while in the car.
This would leave to much blood and/or a bullet. It is also hypothesized that Hoffa was next driven to the location of his murder. It is not known how he was murdered, and without the body we will never know for sure. It is not known what was done with the body, but the most popular theory is that it was taken to the Central Sanitation Services incinerator. Disintegrating the body would be the perfect way to ensure that it would never be found. Someone alive today knows what happened that July evening, but for some unforeseen reasons he/she will not come forward and put this case to rest.
It seems that whomever did this horrible act has literally “gotten away with murder”. (Brill 40-45)Taking into account all of Hoffa’s illegal and immoral doing during his life, it is not hard to develop a motive for the murder. That is not to say that he deserved to die, but one can understand why he was wanted dead. . Hoffa was on the brink of becoming Teamsters president when he was murdered Whoever wanted Hoffa out of the way did it at the worst possible time. Hoffa surely would of been elected president and changed the way labor unions work forever.
He was a great man with great intentions. He went about it wrong, but had Hoffa been successful he would be considered a national hero. (350)Works CitedBrill, Steven. The Teamsters. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978. pgs.
15, 24, 31-76, 84, 95, 201-206, 280, 320, 364, 375Franco, Joseph. Hoffa’s man: the rise and fall of Jimmy Hoffa. New York: Prentice Hall 1987. pgs. 150, 158Friedman, Allen. Power and Greed: Inside the Teamsters empire of corruption.
New York:Watts Publishing, 1989. pgs. 124, 133, 135-138Internet. “http://www.dol.gov:80/dol/asp/public/programs/history/dolchp05.htm”