James Hoffa

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Jimmy Hoffa
BornFebruary 14, 1913(1913-02-14,)
Brazil, Indiana, U.S.
Died(disappeared July 30, 1975)
OccupationLabor union leader
ChildrenJames P. Hoffa, Barbara Ann Crancer

James Riddle "Jimmy" Hoffa (February 14, 1913 - probably died July-early August, 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. Hoffa wanted to defend the rights and improve the working conditions of his union members in the transport industry, which more often than not created conflict with employers and with the government, responsible for regulation. Charges of corruption may have been linked to political opposition to the labor movement, or they may have been justified. He may have seen the Mafia, which infiltrated the union, as something that strengthened his hand in negotiation. Oddly, in its origins, the Mafia had set out to protect the weak and to restore order in what at the time was a lawless society. Hoffa's critics say that he enriched himself at the expense of the teamsters. His defenders claim that "dedication as an American labor leader for more than 40 years, as well as his widely recognized accomplishments on behalf of teamsters and all working people in America" should not be forgotten.[1]

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Early Life

Hoffa was born in Brazil, Indiana, the third son of a poor coal miner named John Cleveland Hoffa and his wife Viola Riddle Hoffa.[2] His father died when he was young and Hoffa could not stay in school. Hoffa moved to Lake Orion, Michigan to work in a warehouse. He developed a reputation as a tough street fighter who always stood up for his fellow workers against management. Because of this, Hoffa was fired from his warehouse job but later hired as a union organizer for Local 299 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT).[3] He and other IBT organizers fought with management in their organizing efforts in the Detroit, Michigan, area.

Hoffa's ancestry is not entirely known. Jimmy Hoffa's paternal ancestors were Pennsylvania Germans who migrated to Indiana in the mid-1800s.

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 [4]

He was a natural leader who rose out of the mistreatment of workers. In 1933, age 20, the first strike he helped organize was for "swampers," the workers who loaded and unloaded strawberries and other fresh produce on and off delivery trucks.

Union Activities

James P. Hoffa, with his father James R. Hoffa, at testimonial dinner. World Telegram & Sun photo by John Bottega, 1965.

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 as a strike involving all transport systems would be devastating for the national economy.

For all the benefits that Hoffa and some Teamsters delivered for over-the-road drivers, other Teamsters locals did little more than sign "sweetheart deals" that made union officers rich and left workers poor. In industries such as garment delivery, organized crime took over locals, and then used their power to strike, bringing the entire industry either under the Mafia's control, or at least vulnerable to blackmail threats.

Hoffa had a working relationship with these racketeers, some of whom had played an important part in his election as general president of the Teamsters. Several Teamster chapter presidents were convicted for mob-related crimes but often would continue serving as union leaders, such as Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano in New Jersey. Cleveland Corn-Sugar War survivor Moe Dalitz and Allen Dorfman bankrolled many mob casinos, hotels and other construction projects from the Teamsters pension fund.

At the time, Pres. John F. Kennedy and his successor Lyndon B. Johnson both put pressure on Hoffa through Kennedy's brother Robert F. Kennedy, then the U.S. Attorney General, investigating Hoffa's activities and disrupting his ever-growing union. The Kennedys expressed certainty that Hoffa had secretly and illegally pocketed a great deal of union money, including more than $85,000 between 1949 and 1953, for Hoffa's personal bills. 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 indebted to organized crime as to his successor and longtime crony Frank Fitzsimmons, who died from cancer before he could be jailed. While Hoffa was a brilliant tactician who knew how to play one employer against another and who used the union's power to nationalize 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 United States Senator Edward M. Kennedy and others during Fitzsimmons' tenure eventually dismantled much of what Hoffa had won for his members under the National Master Freight Agreement, by making it much harder and more costly to maintain the standards Hoffa had achieved.

Hoffa's son, James P. Hoffa, became his father's successor as the Teamster Union's leader. Hoffa's daughter, Barbara Ann Crancer, became an associate circuit court judge in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1991 she sued for release of the 69 volumes of FBI reports, believing that the answer to her father's disappearance could be found in the files. [5]

Conviction and Disappearance

In 1964, Hoffa was convicted of attempted bribery of a grand juror and jailed for 15 years. On December 23, 1971,[6] he was released after only four years when Pres. Richard Nixon commuted his sentence to "time served" on the condition he not participate in union activities for ten 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, 2:45P.M. on July 30, 1975 from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, 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[7]from Union City, New Jersey and New York City.[8]

Theories of Disappearance

His fate is a mystery that continues to this day. Among the theories are:

  • Hoffa's assassination was allegedly ordered at Brutico's, an Italian restaurant in Old Forge, Pennsylvania.
  • Former Mafioso Bill Bonanno claimed in his book, Bound by Honor, that Hoffa was shot and put in the trunk of a car that was then run through a car compactor.
Giants Stadium, where Hoffa's body is reputed to have been buried
  • Convicted mob hitman Donald Frankos, alias "Tony the Greek," has claimed that, while on furlough from prison (where he was incarcerated for a previous murder), he committed numerous hits, including that of Hoffa. Frankos claims that Hoffa was murdered in a house belonging to Detroit mobster Anthony Giacalone by a team consisting of Frankos and Westies gangster Jimmy Coonan, and that the body was subsequently buried in the foundations of Giants Stadium in New Jersey by another hitman, Joe "Mad Dog" Sullivan. The Discovery Channel's MythBusters showed that his body is not in any of the several locations often suggested, (including directly under the 50-yard line). To paraphrase Adam Savage, they would have had to dig up the entire stadium to prove Hoffa was not there, and that would have been prohibitively time consuming and expensive, so they only checked in places where he is commonly believed to have been buried.
  • His body was run through a Mob-controlled fat-rendering plant that was later mysteriously destroyed by fire.
  • Hoffa's body was buried in concrete in or near the Straits of Mackinac bridge.
  • Hoffa's body was buried in a residential area in Hamilton, New Jersey.
  • Hoffa's body was shipped across the border and resides at the Mondo Condo in Toronto, Canada.
  • Hoffa's body was buried in the concrete foundation of the Renaissance Center in Detroit.
  • Hoffa's body was cremated in the animal crematory at the Wayne State University Medical School in Detroit.
  • Hoffa's body is being held in the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox.

Hoffa was declared legally dead and a death certificate issued on July 30, 1982, seven years after his disappearance. Rumors of sightings have persisted for years. His disappearance has since entered the public lexicon, where people would often state someone would "sooner find Jimmy Hoffa" than something else that was difficult to locate.

According to recent publications and expert testimony (Charles Brandt), it is believed that Jimmy Hoffa's body was cremated with the assistance of a Mafia-owned funeral home at a cemetery located near the Detroit home in which Hoffa was killed.[9]

Some respected theorists believe Hoffa referred to the heir to the Olsen fortune, Patrick Shaw, as a "public" (derogatory adjective slang for public school attendee) and was therefore "offed" by Mr. Shaw himself.


DNA evidence examined in 2001 placed Hoffa in the car of longtime Teamster associate Charles O'Brien, despite O'Brien's claims Hoffa had never been in his 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.[10]

Frank Sheeran

In 2003, the FBI searched the backyard of a home in Hampton Township, Michigan formerly frequented by Frank Sheeran, World War II 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 he 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 leaving 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.[11]

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.

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, published 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 (satellite photo[12]) 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.[13] 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 ten 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' lawyers had threatened to go to the media during the previous year, unless the U.S. Attorney's Office acted on Wells' information and followed through on a pledge to seek his release from prison. The next day, the newspaper quoted Wells' lawyer from a 1976 criminal case, James Elsman of Birmingham, who said the FBI in 1976 had ignored Wells' offer to tell them where Hoffa was buried. The lawyer said the FBI ignored him again 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 for 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.[14]

On July 1, 2007 Detroit Free Press staff writer Joel Thurtell wrote an article that gives the latest information on the Hoffa case.

Some speculate that Hoffa was killed by "government agents" to prevent him from testifying before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, due to his possible knowledge of illegal assassination plots that implicated certain government agencies in association with the Mafia.[15]. Others also speculate that the government investigations against him were politically motivated in order to discredit a labor leader, given the suspicion that the labor movement was too sympathetic with the left wing.

Hoffa in popular culture


  • The 1978 movie F.I.S.T., starring Sylvester Stallone as warehouse worker Johnny Kovak rising through the ranks of the fictional Teamster-like "Federation of Interstate Truckers," is loosely based on Hoffa's life.
  • In 1992, the semi-factual motion picture Hoffa was released, starring Jack Nicholson in the title role and Danny DeVito (also the film's director) as Hoffa's fictional right-hand man.


  • The 1983 TV mini-series Blood Feud dramatized the conflict between Hoffa (portrayed by Robert Blake) and Robert F. Kennedy (portrayed by Cotter Smith). (This conflict in real life reached levels of almost childish absurdity. Hoffa and Kennedy once ran into one another at a function both were attending, whereupon they engaged in an arm-wrestling contest. Hoffa claimed to have won.)
  • In a televised special about Robert F. Kennedy on the Discovery Channel, a reporter claims he interviewed a mobster who claimed Hoffa's body was crushed, and then put into a smelter.
  • In Season 1, Episode 13 of MythBusters, "Buried in Concrete," Adam and Jamie search the concrete under Giants Stadium, in the stands, and on the 10 yard line "bump." They find no disturbances that might be a body.
  • In the Season 4 episode 6 of The 4400, "The Marked," a 4400 makes a low budget movie about the disappearance of Hoffa.
  • In Season 6 part 1 of HBO's The Sopranos, while a team of doctors are operating on Mobster Tony Soprano, a doctor says "Oh my God!" another says "What is it?" and the doctor claims jokingly "I think I found Jimmy Hoffa!"
  • In CSI New York, After a Tip off from a mobster, A body of is found buried under the Giants Stadium, leading the CSI team to believe at first, they have found Jimmy Hoffa. It later turned out to be someone who crossed the Mafia.


  • Walter Sheridan's book The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa is noted as an account of Hoffa's trials in Tennessee. It is usually considered to be biased, however, as Sheridan was a lawyer working for Robert Kennedy.
  • The Hoffa Wars by investigative reporter Dan Moldea, details Hoffa's rise to power.
  • Contract Killer by William Hoffman and Lake Headley, attempts to examine Hoffa's murder in great detail.
  • In the James Ellroy novel American Tabloid, Jimmy Hoffa is a supporting character where it is suggested that Jimmy enjoyed boating trips wherein he and friends would chum the waters, shoot sharks with Thompson submachine guns and/or beat sharks to death with nail studded baseball bats. He also appears as a character in Ellroy's follow-up novel The Cold Six Thousand.
  • The novel, Pictures At Eleven, tells the story of Al Strohmeier, a manic, offbeat, and fantastically average Midwestern computer salesman who stumbles onto the plot behind and becomes the one-and-only witness to Hoffa's mysterious disappearance in 1975.
  • Jim Clay's book Hoffa! Ten Angels Swearing. An Authorized Biography published in 1965 by Beaverdam Books in Virginia as a paperback original defends Hoffa's position in his own words.

Other media

  • Hoffa is something of a recurring gag in the comic strip Piranha Club by Bud Grace. In one storyline, the lead character, Ernie, finds the frozen corpse of Jimmy Hoffa when he is stranded in Tibet. In another, an Amazon tribe kidnaps Sid's pet piranha, and replaces him with Jimmy Hoffa's shrunken head. Ernie and Arnold also finds Jimmy Hoffa frozen inside a glacier while scaling Mount Bayonne.
  • In 2006, low-cost airline Spirit Airlines released a "Hunt for Hoffa" advertising campaign with the tagline "Help us find Hoffa with our Hunt for Hoffa game and enjoy fares from just $39 each way." The point of the game was to dig for Hoffa's body by clicking grids on the airline's website, and "winners" were taken to another webpage, saying "You found Hoffa!," thanking them for assisting the National Spirit Sale Center find the politician's body.[16] Within hours after the promotion debuted, the company received many complaints, and the promotion was taken down immediately and changed to another promotion, simply titled "Happy Sale." This promotion was later listed as #8 on CNN Money's 101 Dumbest Moments in Business.[17]


Hoffa always came off to the public as a tough-guy; a man who was strong-willed and strong-armed. He was not well-mannered and was instead rugged around the edges. Hoffa employed whatever means he felt were necessary to ensure that he accomplished his aims. He was courageous and willing to stand out on a limb if need be. Hoffa was concerned with the regular working man and laboriously petitioned on his behalf. He was firm and dedicated in his commitments, even if they working to carry them out might conflict with mainstream principles. Hoffa would become a legend during his lifetime and remain one after his mysterious disappearance in 1975.[18]

See also


  1. Barbara Ann Crancer, July 24, 1994, Letter To the Editor: "Jimmy Hoffa's Legacy," The New York Time, Jimmy Hoffa's Legacy. Retrieved October 18, 2007. In this letter to the editor, Hoffa's daughter objects to an article in the newspaper that described her father as one of "three of the most notorious underworld figures of recent times."
  2. Thaddeus Russell. Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Remaking of the American Working Class. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), 10.
  3. Russell, 22.
  4. Allen Friedman and Ted Schwarz. Power and Greed: Inside the Teamsters Empire of Corruption. (London: Franklin Watts, 1988).
  5. Isabel Wilkerson, April 28, 1991, "Hoffa's Daughter Sues U.S. for Files on Disappearance" [1]New York Times Retrieved October 26, 2008.
  6. Vanderbilt University, Television News Archive - CBS Evening News for Thursday, Dec 23, 1971, Headline: Jimmy Hoffa / Release Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  7. FBI Files on James Hoffa, released to the public, [2]paperlessarchives.com. Retrieved October 26, 2008.
  8. Russell, 226.
  9. George Knapp, KLAS TV, Las Vegas - The Hoffa Files: The Missing Body of Jimmy Hoffa, The Missing Body of Jimmy Hoffa. lasvegasnow.com. Retrieved December 12, 2006.
  10. Associated Press, "Authorities Find Nothing In Hoffa Dig," Teamsters Boss Disappeared In 1975; Authorities Skeptical Of Tip ClickOnDetroit.com. Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  11. Charles Brandt. I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran and the inside story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the last ride of Jimmy Hoffa. (Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 2004).
  12. Yahoo Maps, Milford, MI, satellite photo Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  13. FBI: Tip on Jimmy Hoffa prompts search, "Teamster boss last seen July 1975 at a Michigan restaurant" CNN.com Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  14. Knapp, n.p.
  15. "Jimmy Hoffa," Spartacus Jimmy Hoffa Retrieved October 18, 2007
  16. Associated Press, "Airline scraps online 'Hoffa' game," USA Today, July 19, 2006, Airline scraps online 'Hoffa' game Retrieved April 27, 2007.
  17. Adam Horowitz, David Jacobson, Tom McNichol, and Owen Thomas, CNNMoney.com - 101 Dumbest Moments in Business, 8. Spirit Airlines Retrieved April 27, 2007.
  18. Russell, 51, 120, 149, 189.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Associated Press. ClickOnDetroit.com. Authorities Find Nothing In Hoffa Dig. Teamsters Boss Disappeared In 1975; Authorities Skeptical Of Tip Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  • Brandt, Charles. I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran and the inside story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the last ride of Jimmy Hoffa. Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press, 2004. ISBN 1586420771
  • A&E Documentary Biography - Jimmy Hoffa (A&E DVD Video Archives) 2005. ASIN: B0009K7RZC
  • Clay, Jim. Hoffa!: Ten angels swearing: an authorized biography. Beaverdam Books. 1965. ASIN: B0007E5IGU
  • FBI: Tip on Jimmy Hoffa prompts search. Teamster boss last seen July 1975 at a Michigan restaurant CNN.com. Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  • Franco, Joseph with Richard Hammer. Hoffa's Man: The Rise and Fall of Jimmy Hoffa as Witnessed by His Strongest Arm. New York: Prentice Hall, 1987. ASIN: B000J0D82S.
  • Friedman, Allen, and Ted Schwarz. Power and Greed: Inside the Teamsters Empire of Corruption. London: Franklin Watts, 1988. ISBN 0531151050. (for young adults)
  • Horowitz, Adam, David Jacobson, Tom McNichol, and Owen Thomas. CNNMoney.com - 101 Dumbest Moments in Business. 8. Spirit Airlines CNN,com. Retrieved April 27, 2007.
  • James, Ralph and Estelle. Hoffa and the Teamsters: A Study of Union Power. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand, 1965.
  • Knapp, George. KLAS TV, Las Vegas - The Hoffa Files: The Missing Body of Jimmy Hoffa. The Missing Body of Jimmy Hoffa Retrieved December 12, 2006.
  • Moldea, Dan E. The Hoffa Wars. New York: Charter Books, 1978. ISBN 0441340105
  • Russell, Thaddeus. Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Remaking of the American Working Class. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001. ISBN 1592130275
  • Sheridan, Walter. The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa. New York: Saturday Review Press, 1972.
  • Vanderbilt University. Television News Archive - CBS Evening News for Thursday, Dec 23, 1971. Headline: Jimmy Hoffa / Release Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  • Yahoo Maps. Milford, MI. satellite photo maps.google.Retrieved October 15, 2007.
Preceded by:
Dave Beck
President of Teamsters Union (IBT)
Succeeded by:
Frank Fitzsimmons


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