Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Hoffa, Jimmy

James Riddle Hoffa was one of America’s foremost labor organizers, known for his leadership of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the corruption charges he faced, and for his mysterious disappearance. Hoffa was born into a Brazil, Indiana coal-mining family on February 14, 1913. When Hoffa was seven, his father died of work-related conditions and in 1924 the family moved to Detroit’s west side. Hoffa dropped out of school and went to work in a Kroger grocery warehouse. Spurred on perhaps by the memory of his father’s death, Hoffa rallied the workers around poor working conditions and unfair treatment, and when he called his first strike, he won.

Soon Hoffa was organizing for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which elected him president in 1957, a position he held until 1971. In 1964 he negotiated the National Master Freight Agreement, which covered over 450,000 truck drivers and was described as “a milestone for labor unions everywhere.” It was followed by similar pacts for other trades and crafts within the Teamsters union and while Hoffa was president, the membership grew to the largest of any union in the U.S.

Hoffa had Mafia connections and made transactions that brought him under federal scrutiny. He was eventually convicted in 1964 on jury tampering, attempted bribery, and fraud. President Richard Nixon pardoned him in 1971, stipulating that he avoid any further union activity until 1980.

While negotiating to regain the Teamsters’ presidency, on July 30, 1975, Hoffa disappeared from the parking lot of Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township and was never seen again. He was presumed kidnapped and murdered by mobsters who did not want him back in the union. He was declared legally dead in 1982.

Hoffa married Josephine Poszywak, who he met during a labor strike, in 1936, and they had two children, Barbara Ann Crancer, a judge and legal counsel, and James P. Hoffa, who became president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in 1999.

In 1995, his two children held a memorial service for their father. Periodically, claims are made as to the location of his body, but no trace has ever been found, and his disappearance has become perhaps the century’s most famous unsolved mystery.



Jimmy Hoffa - Hoffa_Jimmy

Jimmy Hoffa on the cover of Life Magazine, 1959 - 2008.005.012

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