NOTE = I posted this story in 2011 by mistake on July 31… it was actually July 30 not the 31’st on which Mr. Hoffa vanished. And then when doing the posting on the Indianapolis, I didn’t realize that the date for this posting was actually the same date. Nevermind that the History Channel website continues to say it happened on July 31; every other site I’ve checked says it happened on July 30, and it’s a good story so here it is:
“I loved Jimmy. He had a lot of good points, but he sure as hell had a lot of faults. He had a tremendous Napoleonic complex. He used to read everything there was on Napoleon. He was always trying to get me to read books on Napoleon, like he got me to read “the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”, where you could find a lot of what Jimmy believed. I never read any of those books, but I looked up the complex and there was Jimmy to a tee. He was out to conquer the world. He liked to have big men around him and show he was the biggest of all. He loved power. He didn’t give a shit about money, only money that could buy him power and fear, which is what he wanted.
– Joseph Franco, longtime Hoffa “associate”.
It was during my third or fourth year of employment on staff at the University of Texas at Austin School of Music that I mentioned the man’s name and everyone knew what I was saying. It was late summer, much as it is now. I was taking on new responsibilities and part of these were clearing lockers of a huge concentration of junk…. just plain junk which had been left by….. previous occupants. In going through the massive concentration of useless brick-a-brack, I told my new supervisor, Dr. Scott Hanna, that I had even managed to run across the body of Jimmy Hoffa. He laughed, and I am told that at a meeting of the faculty when he passed this little joke along to the assembled teachers, that they all laughed too.
Hoffa – the Man Who Ruled the Teamsters and Then Vanished!
James Riddle “Jimmy” Hoffa. Ever since his mysterious disappearance on today’s date, July 30 in 1975, he has become the very symbol of the man who was “rubbed out” by shadowy rivals, and his body stashed in some unknown location, never to be found again. The fact is that this image in the popular culture is not too far off from the truth. Jimmy Hoffa was indeed the ultimate player of “hard ball”, a tough, very difficult man either to know, to work with, or to work for. As the President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a labor union comprising primarily truckers and dock workers from 1958 until 1971 he brought that labor Union to heights of power and influence which it had never known before, but also brought himself to personal ruin and ultimately – oblivion.
The Rise of Jimmy Hoffa
Hoffa was born on Valentines Day – February 14 of 1913 in Brazil, Indiana to Pennzylavania Dutch and German parents. His father was a coal miner whose early death left Hoffa having to work hard at manual labor to support his family. He married Josephine Pozywak in 1936, and set up house in Detroit, having two
children, Barbara Ann Crancer and James P. Jr. (pictured, above). The Teamsters union, founded in 1899, had a small membership to start with – 75,000 in 1933. As a result of Hoffa’s work with other union leaders to merge local union trucker groups into larger and more powerful groups and utimately into one gigantic national body, membership grew to 170,000 members by 1936. It kept on grwoing during World War II and through the post-war boom to over 2.25 million members by the time his influence reached its zenith in 1964
Hoffa Brings the Teamsters to it’s Greatest Heights
Hoffa saw the possibilities for the Teamsters to increase their power and influence with the interstate highway system – no longer were merchants dependant upon railways. Goods could be
carried to market faster, and cheaper by truckers. They could control the very lifeblood of the country. But there were consistent charges of corruption brought against Hoffa, as well as charges of mob influence in the Teamsters. In 1957, the Teamsters were expelled from the AFL/CIO (the largest labor union in the U.S.)after an emotional speech by AFL/CIO President George Meany. Far from hindering the Teamsters, this move increased their freedom to act independently and secure even better contracts for their members.
Hoffa and RFK – the Blood Feud
But this brought Hoffa under even more scrutiny. In 1960 John F. Kennedy was elected President and appointed his brother Robert F. Kennedy U.S. Attorney General. RFK was determined to catch Hoffa as a part of his war on organized crime. He was no stranger to Hoffa’s brand of hardball, and conducted a tough, relentless
prosecution of the Teamsters head. The result of the blood feud between Hoffa and RFK was that Hoffa was convicted of Jury Tampering and also improper use of Teamsters Pension funds and was sentenced to eight years in jail. After exhausting his appeals, Hoffa began serving his sentence in 1967. During his jail time, Frank Fitzsimmons (pictured with Hoffa, below) took over as Teamsters President. Hoffa had expected Fitz to be a reliable rubber stamp man, but Fitzsimmons began to decentralize the operations of the Teamsters as opposed to Hoffa who had always kept the power tightly controlled in his own hands. Hoffa was furious.
Hoffa is Released, But With Strings Attached
Late in 1971, President Richard M. Nixon commuted Hoffa’s sentence to time served, and he was released after serving less than five years of his sentence. But the pardon was granted with the condition that Hoffa
could not participate in Teamsters activities until 1980. Hoffa claimed that this was dirty double-dealing by Nixon and his men – that this clause was not made known to him at the time that he signed onto the pardon. Nevertheless, the conditions stuck and Hoffa was kept out. But his pull was irresistible. He began twisting arms and lining up his old supporters while appealing the conditions of his pardon. Clearly he was angling to regain control of the Teamsters at the earliest possible opportunity. And he was showing real strength. Teamsters leaders who feared being on Hoffa’s bad side were beginning to waiver in their support of Fitzsimmons.
Hoffa Goes to Lunch and Never Returns
Hoffa disappeared at, or sometime after, 2:45 pm on today’s date in 1975, from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Township, a suburb of Detroit. According to what he had told others, he believed he was to meet there with two Mafia leaders—Anthony Giacolone from Detroit, and Anthony
Provenzano from Union City, New Jersey and New York City. Provenzano (above) was also a union leader with the Teamsters in New Jersey. When Hoffa didn’t return home from the restaurant by late that evening, his wife called police to report him missing. When police arrived at the restaurant, they found Hoffa’s car, but no sign of Hoffa himself, nor any indication of what had 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. However, the investigations failed to conclusively determine Hoffa’s fate.
Since that day Hoffas’ body has been reported to be in a wide variety of different locations. One report had him under the cement in the goal post moorings at the Meadowlands football field. On May 17, 2006, acting on a tip, the FBI searched a farm in Milford Township, Michigan, for Hoffa’s remains. But Jimmy wasn’t there either. The implications over the years have been that Hoffa’s threat to return to control of the Teamsters was considered enough of a threat to lead the mob elements involved in the Union to do the man in. Fat lot of good it did them. Today the President of the Teamsters Union is James R. Hoffa Jr. As to the elder Hoffa, he was declared legally dead on this date in 1982 – the seventh anniversary of his mysterious disappearance. His body has never been recovered… not even from the lockers of U.T. Austin.
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“Hoffa’s Man As Witnessed by His Strongest Arm” by Joseph Franco with Richard Hammer, Prentice Hall Press, New York, 1987.