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James R. Hoffa

James Riddle "Jimmy" Hoffa (born February 14, 1913 - disappeared July 30, 1975) was an American labor leader and convicted criminal (pardoned). 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, Jr. is the current president of the Teamsters. He was also well known for his involvement with organized crime from the early years of his Teamsters work, and this connection continued until his disappearance in 1975. His disappearance gave rise to many theories as to what happened to him and where his body was hidden. Hoffa's name will always be synonymous with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the largest and wealthiest union in the world.

Early years

Hoffa was born in Brazil, Indiana, on February 14, 1913. Hoffa began union organizational work at the grassroots level through his employment as a teenager with a grocery chain, which paid substandard wages and offered poor working conditions with minimal job security. The workers were displeased with this situation and tried to organize a union to better their lot. Although Hoffa was young, his bravery and approach ability in this role impressed fellow workers, and he rose to a leadership position. Hoffa first became involved with the IBT when in 1932 he was invited to become an organizer with the Local 299 of the Teamsters in Detroit.

Rise to power as Teamsters President

Hoffa worked to extend the Teamsters' influence in the Midwestern states, from the late 1930s to the late 1940s. Although he never actually worked as a truck driver, he became president of Local 299 in December 1946. At the 1952 IBT convention in Los Angeles, he was selected as national vice-president by incoming president Dave Beck.

Hoffa took over the presidency of the Teamsters in 1958, at the convention in Miami Beach, Florida. His predecessor, Dave Beck, had appeared before the John Little McClellan-led US Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor or Management Field in March 1957, and took the Fifth Amendment 140 times in response to questions. Beck was under indictment when the IBT convention took place, and was convicted on fraud charges later that year at a trial held in Seattle, and imprisoned. Hoffa was re-elected as president in 1961 and worked to expand the union.

In 1964, he succeeded in bringing virtually all over-the-road truck drivers in North America under a single national master-freight agreement, in what may have been his finest achievement in a lifetime of union activity.

Prosecution and Conviction

In 1964, Hoffa was convicted in Chattanooga, Tennessee, of attempted bribery of a grand juror, and was sentenced to eight years. Hoffa was also convicted of fraud later that same year for improper use of the Teamsters' pension fund, in a trial held in Chicago. Hoffa had illegally arranged several large pension fund loans to leading organized crime figures. Hoffa spent the next three years unsuccessfully appealing his 1964 convictions and began serving his sentences in March, 1967 at the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania.

Just before he entered prison, Hoffa appointed Frank Fitzsimmons as acting Teamsters president. Fitzsimmons was a Hoffa loyalist and Hoffa believed he could be controlled and be able to resume his position after his release from prison, but Fitzsimmons soon began to distance himself from Hoffa.

Presidential pardon

On December 23, 1971, less than five years into his 13-year sentence, Hoffa was released from the Lewisburg, Pennsylvania prison, when President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence to time served. Following his release, Hoffa was awarded a Teamsters' pension of $1.7 million, delivered in a one-time lump sum payment. This type of pension settlement had not occurred before with the Teamsters. Suspicion was soon raised of a deal for Hoffa's release connected with the IBT's support of Nixon in 1972. It was alleged that a large sum of money, estimated to be as high as $1 million, was paid secretly to Nixon.

However, Nixon imposed on Hoffa after his release a restriction from participating in union activities until March 1980. It was likely imposed upon Hoffa as the result of requests from senior Teamsters' leadership, although IBT President Frank Fitzsimmons {died 1981} also denied this.

Hoffa faced immense resistance to his re-establishment of power from many quarters and had lost much of his earlier support, even in the Detroit area. As a result he intended to begin his comeback at the local level with Local 299 in Detroit, where he retained some influence.


On July 30, 1975, Hoffa disappeared from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Detroit. According to what he had told others, he believed he was to meet there with two Mafia leaders: Anthony Giacalone and Anthony Provenzano. Provenzano was also a union leader with the Teamsters in New Jersey, and had earlier been quite close to Hoffa. Provenzano was a national vice-president with IBT from 1961, Hoffa's second term as Teamsters' president.

Hoffa arrived first, around 2:00 in the afternoon, but after waiting nearly 30 minutes, none of the others had arrived. Annoyed, he called his wife and told her that he was going to wait for a few more minutes before giving up. This was the last time that she ever spoke with her husband. Not long after Hoffa had called home on the pay phone outside the hardware store, a maroon 1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham pulled out of the restaurant parking lot and nearly hit a truck. The truck driver, who was making deliveries in the area, pulled up next to the car and immediately recognized Jimmy Hoffa sitting in the backseat behind the car’s driver. The truck driver also noticed a long object covered with a gray blanket on the seat between Hoffa and another passenger. The truck driver thought it was a shotgun or a rifle. He didn’t get a good look at anyone else in the car.

When Hoffa did not return home that evening, his wife reported him missing. Police found Hoffa's car at the restaurant, but there was no sign of Hoffa himself or any indication of what happened to him. Extensive investigations into the disappearance began immediately, and continued over the next several years by several law enforcement groups, including the FBI. The investigations did not conclusively determine Hoffa's fate. For their part, Giacalone and Provenzano were found not to have been near the restaurant that afternoon, and each denied they had scheduled a meeting with Hoffa.

Hoffa was declared legally dead, and a death certificate was issued, on July 30, 1982, seven years after his disappearance. His disappearance gave rise to many rumors and theories.

In 1975, before his disappearance, Hoffa had begun working on an autobiography titled Hoffa: The Real Story, which was published a few months after his disappearance. He had earlier published a 1970 book titled The Trials of Jimmy Hoffa.

In 2001, the FBI matched DNA from Hoffa's hair—taken from a brush—with a strand of hair found in a 1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham driven by longtime friend Charles "Chuckie" O'Brien on July 30, 1975. Police and Hoffa's family had long believed O'Brien played a role in Hoffa's disappearance. O'Brien, however, had previously denied ever being involved in Hoffa's disappearance or that Hoffa had ever taken a ride in his 1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham.

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. Although not claiming to conclusively establish the specifics of his disappearance, the memo indicates that law enforcement's belief is that Hoffa was murdered at the behest of organized crime figures who deemed his efforts to regain power within the Teamsters to be a threat to their control of the union's pension fund. The FBI has called the report the definitive account of what agents believe happened to Hoffa.


Many believe that the prime suspects in Hoffa's disappearance were Anthony Giacalone {died 2001} and Anthony Provenzano, {died 1988} and that the meeting planned for that day was actually a set up to take Hoffa somewhere else where he was ultimately killed.

Suspected hitmen

1. Salvatore Briguglio, associate of the Genovese crime family, Provenzano.

2. Stephen and Thomas Andretta, associates of the Genovese crime family.

3. Frank Sheeran, associate of Russell Bufalino {d.1994} of the Pittston, Scranton Bufalino crime family. {Traces of blood were found in a Detriot house where Sheeran alleged to have killed Hoffa; however investigators determined it was too old for conclusive testing; Sheeran is also alleged to have been the triggerman of Crazy Joey Gallo}. According to History Detectives Investigations July 22, 2014 when Bufalino found out that he could have come before the Church Committee in the summer of 1975 in regard to the CIA-MAFIA-CUBAN connection, this resulted in the "silencing" of those who could have confirmed Bufalino connection: Sam Giancana {June 19, 1975} ; Jimmy Hoffa {July 30, 1975}; Johnny Roselli {August 9, 1976}.

Other than the aforementioned suspects many other mob hitmen have claimed to have been behind the Hoffa disappearance including Richard Kuklinski and Donald Frankos.

In popular culture

  • Hoffa was portrayed by Robert Blake in the 1983 TV-film Blood Feud, Trey Wilson in the 1985 television miniseries Robert Kennedy & His Times, and by Jack Nicholson in the 1992 biographical film Hoffa (Film). In the 1978 film F.I.S.T., Sylvester Stallone portrays Johnny Kovak, a character based on Hoffa.
  • In the 1980 comedy feature Nine to Five, complications and misunderstandings lead Lily Tomlin's character, Violet Newstead, to believe that she murdered her boss. Being accompanied by her two friends and co-workers, Doralee Rhodes and Judy Bernly (played respectively by Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda), she decides to get rid of a corpse that she thinks is her boss's body. When she tells the two ladies her plan, Doralee tells her that anyone will find the body, to which Violet responds, "Oh-hoh, crazy am I? They never found Jimmy Hoffa!"
  • Homer makes several allusions to Hoffa's association with gangsters and Hoffa's mysterious disappearance in The Simpsons episode "Last Exit to Springfield."
  • In the sitcom Frasier, Frasier makes a passing reference to Hoffa in the third-season episode, "A Word to the Wiseguy."
  • The Aimee Mann B-side "Jimmy Hoffa Jokes" (1993, from Say Anything single) refers to her relationship with an unnamed partner as no longer being funny, much like the eponymous Jimmy Hoffa jokes.
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Skid Marks", one of the lines at the DMV is labeled "Jimmy Hoffa".
  • In the TV series, "House of Cards", the protagonist Frank Underwood makes a reference to Hoffa saying, "You wanna play 6 degrees of separation, you could throw in Jimmy Hoffa and the pope".