James Riddle Hoffa


James Riddle Hoffa, the son of a coal driller, was born on 14th February, 1913. His father died when he was seven and in 1924, the family moved to Detroit.

Hoffa left school at fourteen and worked as a department-store stock boy. An active trade unionist, in 1932, he led a strike at a Detroit grocery store. By the age of 37 he was chairman of the Central States Drivers Council in 1940 and two years was elected president of the Michigan Conference of Teamsters.

In 1952 Hoffa became vice president of the Teamsters Union under Dave Beck, the president. Allegations were made in 1956 that the leadership of the union was involved in illegal activities. The Select Committee on Labor, that included Joe McCarthy, Barry Goldwater, Karl Mundt and John F. Kennedy, decided that these charges needed to be investigated.

Robert Kennedy, chief counsel of the committee, was instructed to collect information and discovered several financial irregularities. This included taking $85,119 between 1949 and 1953 from union funds to pay his own personal bill. The investigation also revealled that a Seattle builder had received $196,516 out of union funds to pay for work done on Beck\'s home. The investigations were televised and Kennedy\'s questioning turned him into a national political figure.

Beck was eventually imprisoned for five years and Hoffa became the new president of the Teamsters Union. Robert Kennedy now began investigating Hoffa and he was eventually charged with corruption. Kennedy claimed that Hoffa had misappropriated $9.5 million in union funds and had corruptly done deals with employers. However, the jury found Hoffa not guilty. George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, did not agree with the verdict and Hoffa and the Teamsters Union were expelled from the association.

Hoffa was popular with his members and in 1960 was re-elected as president of the Teamsters Union. A long-term supporter of the Republican Party, Hoffa was a generous supplier of funds to Richard Nixon in his presidential struggle with John F. Kennedy. During the campaign, Robert Kennedy sent Hoffa a copy of his book, The Enemy Within. Kennedy wrote inside: "To Jimmy. I\'m sending you this book so you won\'t have to use union funds to buy one. Bobby."

After Kennedy\'s election victory in 1960 he appointed Robert Kennedy as his attorney general. Once in office, Kennedy resumed his investigations into Hoffa\'s activities. Hoffa was eventually charged with taking money from the union\'s $300 Pension Fund. J. Edgar Hoover, a long-term opponent of the Kennedys, passed FBI files on the attorney general to Roy Cohn, who in turn gave them to Hoffa. However, Hoffa, who disapproved of the Kennedy\'s adulterous behaviour, declined to use this material against his prosecutors.

A former official of the union, E. G. Partin, was in prison facing charges of kidnapping, murder, robbery and rape, agreed to do a deal with the authorities and provide evidence against Hoffa. At the first trial at Nashville in October, 1962, the hung jury voted 7-5 for acquittal. The judge, believing that Hoffa\'s team were guilty of jury tampering, called a mistrial. At the second trial at Chattanooga in January, 1964, Hoffa was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison.

In December, 1971, President Richard Nixon ordered Hoffa\'s release. Later, FBI records revealed that Nixon had received illegal campaign donations from the Teamsters Union in exchange for a presidential pardon.

After his release Hoffa travelled the country campaigning for prison reform. He also attempted to return as leader of the Teamsters Union. On 30th July, 1975, James Hoffa disappeared when travelling to a meeting with the Detroit gangster, Anthony Giacalone. In 1982 Hoffa was legally declared "presumed dead".


Teamsters Union, U.S. labor union formed in 1903 by the amalgamation of the Team Drivers International Union and the Teamsters National Union. Its full name is the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen, and Helpers of America (IBT); the majority of its members are truck drivers. The Teamsters has been one of the few unions to support Republican candidates, backing Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.


The strongest Teamster centers at the turn of the 19th cent. were Chicago, New York City, Boston, and St. Louis. Chicago, with about half the membership, was the scene of an unsuccessful 1905 strike against