A Partin History

Edward Grady Partin was a big, rugged guy who could charm a snake off a rock.

Jimmy Hoffa

Wendy’s background, like the history of most of my dad’s side of the family, is well documented in court records if you search online records using our middle names together, Wendy Anne Rothdram Partin and Jason Ian Partin. By the mid 2000’s, a 1976 court record was available publicly and summarized the first few years of my life concisely and accurately and probably only coincidently coincides with Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance on July 30th, 1975, which was when the new family court judge for East Baton Rouge Parish 19th Judicial District, Judge JJ Lottingger, replaced the original trial judge, Judge Pugh, who had originally removed me from the Partin family and died of an alleged suicide in early 1975.

For reasons I never learned, Lottingger had transferred from thirty years in state legislative law and took over my custody case after having served under four governors: Governor Earl Long, brother of the famous Huey Long and who was himself famous for many things, like pardoning himself from an insane asylum while in office and biting the ear off of a state legislator during a debate, and has been portrayed by many actors over the years, like Paul Newman in the film Blaze; Governor Jimmie Davis, famous for touring with his country band while in office and penning the song “You are my Sunshine;” John McKeithen, who used Lottinger to pursue prosecuting my grandfather for something, anything, similar to how President Kennedy used Bobby to pursue prosecuting Hoffa for anything, and who for two terms repeatedly and fruitlessly claimed he would rid Louisiana of “Edward Parting and his gangster Teamsters,” and that he wouldn’t “let them run this state;” and Governor John Edwards, famous for serving four times as Louisiana’s governor despite our law limiting governors to two terms – a legal nuance because he was impeached twice and never completed those terms – and who only lost the year he refused Big Daddy’s endorsement, claiming “Edward Partin is too controversial,” which tells you a lot about Big Daddy because Edwards was a notorious crook and had simultaneously claimed that he, Edwards, could only loose a Louisiana election if “found in bed with a live boy or a dead hooker.”

Lottingger had served with all of these governors and represented them in unsuccessful anti-union bills trying to rid Louisiana of Big Daddy and his “gangster Teamsters.” I never met Lottingger, but I assume he knew my family well, especially because for almost a decade he had unsuccessfully tried to help McKeithen rid the state of Edward Grady Partin Senior. He was respected in and out of the courtroom and his reputation was impeccable, perhaps even more so because he never mentioned my family negatively or even in passing and he seemed to focus only on the facts of my child custody case and the seemingly inappropriate charges of Judge Pugh, though never mentioning him by name. He did, however, go into a surprisingly amount of detail about Wendy in Partin vs Partin.

This is a suit by Edward Partin, Jr., plaintiff, seeking a divorce from his wife, Wendy Rothdram Partin, defendant, after having lived separate and apart for more than one year following a judgment of separation from bed and board. Plaintiff also seeks custody of the minor child, Jason Ian Partin, and the defendant reconvened asking that she be granted the permanent care, custody and control of the minor child.

The Trial Court had previously, by ex parte order, awarded the temporary care, custody and control of the minor to Mr. and Mrs. James Ed White. Following trial on the merits, plaintiff was awarded a divorce as well as the permanent care, custody and control of the minor child, with the temporary physical custody of the minor child to remain with Mr. and Mrs. James Ed White. The defendant has appealed this judgment as it regards the custody of the child.

This couple was married when plaintiff was 17 and the defendant was 16 years of age. Nine months following the marriage, they gave birth to young Jason. While we are not concerned with the facts surrounding the separation and divorce, it was apparently one of incompatibility as defendant testified that at the age of 17 she found herself married to a man who did not love her and so she left. Her testimony was as follows:

“As I say I was emotionally upset. I was receiving little support from Edward. I was scared, very confused. I didn’t know exactly which way to turn. I felt I had no one to listen and help with the situation at hand.”

Several weeks later she returned and lived with her husband again. She found that the situation hadn’t changed, and felt she had to get away again. She heard of a man who wanted someone to share expenses on a trip to California, so she quit her job and with her last wages left with him. She testified that she had no sexual relations with this man, and plaintiff does not accuse her of such. Following this trip she returned to Baton Rouge still emotionally upset. Her husband was suing her for separation and told her he was going to take custody of Jason. She went to live with her aunt and uncle, got a full time job with Kelly Girls paying $512.00 per month.

In February, 1975, the defendant’s mother was injured in an accident and she moved in with her to care for her. In September, 1975, following the recuperation of the mother she returned to live with her aunt and uncle.

During these above periods of time, the minor child lived with Mr. and Mrs. White. The Whites came to regard Jason as their own and, although the separation judgment awarded custody to the plaintiff with reasonable visitation privileges to the defendant, the Whites decided the defendant-mother could only see the child two days a month and that she could never keep the child over night. The reason the defendant did not contest custody at the separation trial was because at the time she felt unable emotionally and financially to care for her son.

[Judge Lottinger wrote a paragraph of legal jargon here, citing the “double burden” placed on Wendy by the deceased Judge Pugh to go above and beyond what was typically necessary to regain custody.]

We note that the petition for separation was grounded on habitual intemperance, as well as abandonment of the husband and the minor child. There are no other grounds listed for the separation nor for custody. The petition for the separation and custody of the minor child was not contested by the defendant, and a default judgment was granted. Defendant testified in the instant proceedings that the reason she did not contest custody in the separation proceeding was that she was not financially or emotionally capable of caring for the minor, and that knowing the Whites were going to be caring for him, she knew he would be in good hands.

Though the petition for separation had as one of its allegations “habitual intemperance”, the plaintiff in the instant proceeding testified that he had never accused his wife of drinking, nor had he ever seen her drink.

[Judge Lottinger goes on to cite a few precent cases, verdicts from previous judges in higher courts used to justify his opinions, a detail that’s less important in Louisiana’s unique version of the Napoleonic legal code still lingering from the Louisiana purchase that gives judges more freedoms than in all other states.]

The welfare of the child is the main issue that the Court is concerned with. This issue is more important than any wishes or wants the parents may have. Fulco v. Fulco, 259 La. 1122, 254 So.2d 603 (1971), rehearing denied (1971). As a general rule, and in particular where children of young age are involved, preference is given to the mother in custody cases. This preference is very simply explained, the mother is normally better able to care for the child and look after the education, rearing, and training necessary. Estes v. Estes, 261 La. 20, 258 So.2d 857 (1972), rehearing denied (1972).

No argument is made that the mother is not now morally or emotionally fit to care for the child, or that the house in which she lives is not a proper place to rear a child. In fact, the Trial Judge admitted that it was a fine home.

The Trial Judge has not favored us with written reasons for judgment, however, we must conclude from various statements by the Trial Judge that appear in the record that he could find no fault with the defendant, nor was there anything wrong with the house in which she lived. It thus becomes apparent to this Court that the Trial Judge applied the “double burden” rule to the defendant. We have already ruled that the “double burden” rule does not apply in this situation, and thus, under the established jurisprudential rules, we can see no reason why the defendant-mother should not be granted the permanent care, custody and control of the minor child with reasonable visitation privileges granted to the father.

In consideration of our above opinion, there is no need to discuss the specification of error as to the ex parte granting of custody to the Whites.

Therefore, for the above and foregoing reasons, the judgment of the Trial Court is reversed, and IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the defendant-appellant, Wendy Rothdram Partin, be and she is hereby granted the permanent care, custody and control of the minor, Jason Ian Partin, and IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that this matter be and it is hereby remanded to the Trial Court for the purpose of fixing specific visitation privileges on behalf of plaintiff-appellee Edward Partin, Jr. All costs of the appeal are to be paid by plaintiff-appellee.

What’s not obvious or easily found online is Wendy’s family history, which I think is remarkable.

My mother was born as Wendy Anne Rothdram on August 14th, 1955 in Richmond Hill, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto. Her mother, my Granny, was born Phillis Joyce Hicks and had gotten pregnant to a man who’s last name was Rothdram; I never learned his first name. Granny’s father was a respectable professional hockey player, Harold Hicks, who had played for the Toronto Mapleleafs, the Boson Bruins, and a host of smaller, regional teams; in those days, professional players were hardly payed, and Harold also worked for the Canadian railroad system and after retiring his hockey jerseys he dedicated himself to that profession and his obituary was well read in Toronto because of his hockey fame and for his thirty years of service managing the eastern half of Canada’s railroad system. He and my great-grandmother had three daughters, Granny, Auntie Lo, and Aunt Mary, and they all grew up in what most people would consider a stable, loving, middle class home in the boom time after WWII. All three daughters were partiers, Mary with a fondness of white wines, especially eastern Canada’s sweet ice wines; Granny with a taste for Scotch whiskey; and Lois with a thirst for any type of booze, especially after her third or fourth glass.

Mary married John Ward, my great Uncle John, and settled near her parents and began raising children/ Lois married Robert M. Desire, a French Canadian from Price Edward Island. Auntie Lo and Uncle Bob moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, because Uncle Bob had accepted a managerial position for the American offices of Montreal’s Bulk Stevedoring Company. He would manage the local labor that loaded and unloaded big shipping freighters in major ports. They purchased a three bedroom, two bath brick home in Sherwood Forest, an upper middle class neighborhood of Baton Rouge, about an hour upriver of New Orleans, because they could not have children yet wanted to live in relative luxury near the Sherwood Forest Country Club. In my later years, I’d view Aunt Mary and Uncle John and their children, my cousins, as a typical American nuclear family; Uncle Bob and Auntie Lo lived a lifestyle of DINKS, full of parties and day drinking.

Granny, the youngest of the Hicks daughters, got high on Scotch whiskey and met Wendy’s dad at a party, and nine to ten months later Wendy was born and named Wendy Anne Rothdram. Five years later, for reasons I never learned, after Wendy’s little brother died – we never learned his name – Granny fled her husband and temporarily moved in with Uncle Bob and Auntie Lo in Baton Rouge. Granny was uneducated but was an avid reader and self motivated, and she taught herself to type and all about the burgeoning chemical plant industry north of Baton Rouge along the newly constructed and misnamed Interstate 110 that began near I-10 and the Baton Rouge airport and dead ended at the chemical plants. She obtained a secretarial job at CoPolymer that provided health care benefits – something she hadn’t considered in Canada but viewed as important in America – and she stayed with Uncle Bob and Auntie Lo long enough to save money for a down payment on a 840 square foot, three bedroom, two bath home directly under the Baton Rouge airport flight path. Wendy grew up there, and attended Glen Oaks Middle School and Glen Oaks High School, where she met my dad in 1971.

My dad was living with his grandmother, my great-Grandma Foster, a few blocks from Granny’s house. Mamma Jean had long since moved to Houston, Texas, but my dad chose to stay close to Baton Rouge and Big Daddy, who was remarried and with a family that didn’t welcome children from his previous marriages, so my dad lived with Grandma Foster and sold drugs at Glen Oaks high school and enjoyed, though never appreciated or understood, the legal freedoms and privileges and federal protection for no reason other than he was Edward Grady Partin Junior.

My dad met Wendy and told all of his friends she was “fine,” a sentiment echoed by most of my mom’s high school friends I’d meet later in life, many of whom may had mistakenly assumed I was Wendy’s little brother instead of her son and spoke freely around me. But, even those who knew us as mother and son would say the same. After Big Daddy’s 1990 funeral, when I’d be 17 and Uncle Keith’s tongue would be loosened by a case of Miller Lite and a mind full of memories, Kieth would summarize Wendy in high school by telling me she had the finest ass he had ever seen, and that everyone at Glen Oaks was jealous of my dad for getting a piece of it. He had hoped he’d get a piece, too. Wendy would take that as a compliment, of sorts, especially because Kieth was such a genuinely nice guy who simply spoke colloquially from a good place in his heart when drunk, and she’d tell me that I was the consequence of that piece of ass, which happened to be when she lost her virginity.

Wendy was ashamed to tell Granny and couldn’t afford the hundred or so dollars for an abortion, so she accepted my dad’s proposal and they dropped out of Glen Oaks and eloped to Woodville, Mississippi, where Grandma Foster was from and Big Daddy had been born and they still had family, and where state law did not require parental consent or blood tests for a 17 year old boy to marry a 16 year old girl. They returned to Baton Rouge and moved into one of Big Daddy’s many houses all around Baton Rouge’s remote, wooded bayous and rivers. I was born in Our Lady of the Lake hospital on October 5th, 1972, and initially lived in Big Daddy’s house near the Comite River and not too far from the Achafalaya Basin.

My Canadian family became estranged from Wendy, partially because of their distrust of the well known Partin family and disliking of my dad, so she immersed in her new Partin family that seemed to tolerate people’s flaws more than most other southern families she knew. But, in the months that I grew in her belly, Wendy had been leaning about her new family from the news, and she grew more and more regretful that she hadn’t mustered the money for an abortion; those would be her words many years later. The most obvious was Big Daddy’s history with Hoffa, especially the part about Big Daddy hiding plastic explosives in his houses for Hoffa after Hoffa and he had plotted to kill Bobby Kennedy by blowing up his home. This was well known by as early as 1964 when Life Magazine did a national expose on the Partin family, supported by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s personal endorsement of Big Daddy and the 1962 FBI records that had been monitoring his and Hoffa’s Teamster and mafia connection and the plot to kill Bobby; according to the report, they were probably able to get plastic explosives via Big Daddy’s working relationship with New Orleans mafia boss Carlos Marcello, and Big Daddy stored the explodes along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the walls of his houses; that plot and the plastic explosives and Hoffa’s eventual imprisonment for jury tampering based on Big Daddy’s testimony would be the basis of the 1983 film The Blood Feud, where Brian Dennehey would portray Big Daddy and Robert Blake would win an academy award for “channelling the rage and intensity of Hoffa.”

In May of 1971, shortly before Wendy met my dad, Hoffa asked Nixon to send Audie Murphy to Baton Rouge and negotiate with Big Daddy. Audie was a national celebrity, a star of more than 40 action films including one based on his memoir, To Hell and Back. He was America’s most decorated WWII war hero, a handsome man from Texas who had been given every award the United States could bestow on a veteran and who had 278 confirmed kills in two years of combat. He brought Big Daddy two options to sign, either coming with a presidential pardon. The first option was to recant his 1964 testimony against Hoffa, which would free Hoffa but condemn Big Daddy for perjury, hence the proactive presidential pardon. The second option was to sign an affidavit swearing that Walter Sheridan, the head of the Get Hoffa Squad and a family friend of sorts, had authorized illegal wire tapping of Hoffa’s 1964 defense team, which would invalidate the trial and free Hoffa and also prosecute Walter and his boss, J. Edgar Hoover, and probably the recently assassinated Bobby Kennedy; Hoffa hated Bobby so much that even after Bobby was murdered in 1968 Hoffa wanted to add salt to the grave. At the same time, Hoffa sent word from his prison to all of America’s mafia bosses that he’d forgive the $121 Million they collectively owed back to the Teamsters pension fund if Big Daddy either recanted or signed the affidavit, no matter how that would happen.

Big Daddy was shot, stabbed, and beaten bloody a few times, but survived when the assailants did not. In effect, because of Hoffa’s wishes, he could not die. He refused to recant or testify, even after having famously refused a million dollar bribe from Marcello that was the subject of Time Magazine’s 1968’s expose on the mafia – to which many ignorant pundits joked that the mafia wasn’t in the business of bribing when they could kill someone – and several other bribes and attempts on my uncles and cousin’s lives, leading up to Audie Murphy’s visit to Baton Rouge.

Most of the attacks on Patins stopped when Audie died in an airplane crash on May 28th, 1971; the pilot and all four passengers perished instantly, and Big Daddy was the prime suspect. He never denied it, and several of my uncles jokingly spread word that of course Big Daddy wouldn’t hesitate to kill a planeload full of people to get one person who said something he didn’t want said. I would hear that even Marcello was impressed by Audie’s history of killing 278 men, and that if Hoffa was afraid of Big Daddy and Big Daddy could kill Audie Murphy, maybe they should back off. For whatever reason, attacks on my family began to dwindle after 1971.

Also in 1971, Big Daddy was arrested for stealing $450 thousand from the Baton Rouge Teamsters safe after the safe was found empty at the bottom of the river near our house, and the only two witnesses were found soon after, beaten and bloody. The survivor refused to testify, but a team of state prosecutors focused on taking down Big Daddy the same way Walter had led the Get Hoffa Squad somehow convinced a Grand Jury to indict Big Daddy, and the state and a few national newspapers consolidated all of the news about Marcello, Audie Murphy, and the $450 thousand into sensationalized stories that were showcased on the front page of the Baton Rouge newspaper, probably at the request of the Get Big Daddy Squad, similar to how national media had begun to demonize Hoffa in the 60’s, ironically showcasing his accuser, Big Daddy, as an All American Hero; it was at this time that “the minor domestic problems” Hoffa joked about came to light, that Big Daddy had raped a girl in Mississippi and kidnapped a Teamster’s kids in Baton Rouge after an unfavorable custody decision in the same family court where Judge Lottinger would soon preside.

When Nixon pardoned Hoffa in late 1971, he became the first and only republican endorsed by the Teamsters union. That made national news and led to speculation and a half-hearted attempt at investigative journalism and brought Big Daddy to the forefront of local news again. This time, it was rumors about him being involved in Murphy’s death and rehashing old quotes from Governor McCain, “I won’t let Edward Partin and his gangstar hoodlums run this state,” and recalling New Orleans attorney general Jim Garrison’s much publicized arrest of Walter Sheridan and supeana of Big Daddy for John F. Kennedy’s murdet; it was the only trial brought against any murderer, and the arrest of Walter was deemed a political move, but Big Daddy’s supeana was based on an alleged connection to Lee Harvey Oswald, who was born in New Orleans and had trained in the Baton Rouge civil Air Force near my grandmothers’s homes, and a photograph of Big Daddy with Jack Ruby, an associate of Hoffa’s who shot and killed Oswald on live television less than two days after Kennedy’s murder, before Oswald could be interrogated. The photograph and witnesses disappeared and the grand jury didn’t indict Big Daddy, but speculation arose. Garrison’s trial and book, which would become the basis of 1992’s JFK film, had only recently ended in 1969 with the main suspect, Clay Shaw, acquitted and people like Walter fuming over Garrison’s allegged abuse of power. It was all fodder for sensationalized news, especially in the small city, big town of Baton Rouge where everyone knew Big Daddy.

Probably because of the notoriously corrupt government of Louisiana and the laissez faire attitude of most of our working class voters, Big Daddy was celebrated as a local hero and many people pointed to the benefits he and the Teamsters did for our city, especially Big Daddy’s Baton Rouge International Speedway, originally the Pelican Speedway, that had been build by materials his Teamsters requisitioned from other states and large corporate contracts. In Baton Rouge, almost all families knew at least one relative who earned their livelihood with the Teamsters and when times were lean they allways had work, and the Teamsters had stepped up to support the teachers union and several other local, working class unions, so Big Daddy’s transgressions were largely ignored. Besides, he was tall and handsome and charming and everyone seemed enamored by him. Never a week went by where he wasn’t showcased in state newspapers and television.

By the summer of 1972, Wendy was just beginning to learn all of this was and hearing Uncle Doug laugh and joke about all the people his big brother and him had killed and how Big Daddy influenced a jury to get off the rape charge, among other things. She was witnessing her new family’s homes blown up by the mob, careless drinking and smoking in homes packed with plastic explosives, and at least one gas leak that Uncle Keith, after a few beers, laughed and said it wasn’t Marcello; it was Doug using the situation to collect insurance money. The news didn’t discriminate, and the Partin name was known by everyone in Baton mRouge and people assumed Wendy Partin was either well taken care of or was a threat to them and Big Daddy’s retaliation. She couldn’t find work, and therefore couldn’t support herself much less herself and me. Almost overnight, Wendy found herself no longer a high school girl, but a young, expecting mother married to a drug dealer and a part of a criminal family and seemingly unable to do anything about it. She trapped in a situation unlike even the worse movies and stories she could imagine, and, as the court reports said, she felt alone and scared and didn’t know what to do.

I was born in October of 1972, a 9 pound 8 ounce baby indicative of my dad and Big Daddy’s massive sizes and seemingly improbable for Wendy’s petite, though relatively voluptuous, 5’1″ frame. She said it hurt. My dad wasn’t there. Neither Wendy nor I ever learned where he was.

In the spring of 1973 my dad left Baton Rouge on motorcycles, headed east on I-10 with some of his friends to meet some of Big Daddy’s associates in Miami – he had known the new Miami Teamster leader well and had helped put him in power after the former was assented in 1968 – to then take a boat to Kingston, Jamaica, where my dad was planning to buy a boat load of drugs to sell in Baton Rouge; court records would show that he had somewhat succeeded, but had been arrested for selling prescription opiates in 1972 but had, miraculously, been released without jail time. Wendy felt alone and unemployable and hopeless, and she dropped me off at my normal daycare center near Glen Oaks High one morning and walked to a nearby coffee shop, crying and without a car or any skill she could envision helping her change her situation. At the cafe, he saw a handwritten note asking to split gas on a ride to California. The author had just put it up and was still there, and she had a small nervous breakdown and hopped in his car and, as the song sang, went to California lookin’ for a new start with an achin’ in her heart. As Judge Lottinger wrote, she never had sexual relations with him; she would tell me she simply needed to get away, and the note on a wall that had just been posted by a man she never met seemed like a sign, and she listened and left with him that morning.

By nightfall, the daycare didn’t know what to do with me and began calling Wendy’s emergency contacts. She was estranged from her biologic family, so the daycare didn’t have their phone numbers. They eventually reached best friend from Glen Oaks High, Linda White. Linda answered the phone and told her father that I was alone and crying, and without hesitation James “Ed” White dropped what he was doing and rushed to the daycare center and took me home. He knew Wendy and my dad well because he was the custodian at the 250 student Glen Oak High School, and of course he would have known about Big Daddy, but Paw Paw – which is how I know him – was unconcerned about anything other than my welfare. People who knew him would say he was a force of nature and that once he began acting to help someone nothing shy of death would stop him. Judge Pugh may have sensed something in PawPaw, because he removed me from my parents ex-parte, without their input, and assigned PawPaw as my legal guardian. PawPaw didn’t hesitate to take me into his home, and not even Big Daddy and the mafia could influence him to relinquish care for me. PawPaw was a force of nature who answered a call and went into action.

Like most court “final” decisions, my 1975 custody case was appealed, and of course PawPaw would have been aware that the Partins kidnapped kids from unfavorable custody decisions. But, Judge Lottinger got one thing right: he said Mr. and Mrs. White grew to view me as their own, and Paw Paw was unperturbed by the Partins and was like any force of nature: unflappable in the face of storm.

Almost fifty years later, when I learned that Wendy was dying of liver failure, I recalled Judge Lottinger’s unusual comment that my dad claimed to never see her drink alcohol. It was a random comment that was unnecessary for his decision, and to this day my dad denies that he said it; though he admits they smoked lots of pot and he took a lot of LSD while she was pregnant. Perhaps it’s true, as Wendy would often joke, that Partin family led her to drink. She’d laugh and say that that she was born WAR and marrying my dad WARP’ed her and that’s why she had the nervous breakdown and abandoned me and began to drink intemperately later in life. I don’t know if that’s coincidental or ironic; you’d have to ask an English major or Alanis Morsette to illuminate the difference.

I never met Judge Lottingger, and to this day my dad denies having said he never saw Wendy drink; on the contrary, he says they drank and did a lot of drugs while she was pregnant and while I was an infant. Maybe Lottingger was trying to help Wendy, because at the time “intemperate” was used in court records as a euphemism for “inability to act with restraint or moderation, especially with alcohol,” and to reduce appeals from the Partins he had to present as strong of a case supporting Wendy as possible.

That may be true, but I can’t attest to it. All I can truthfully do is share the facts that have already been online and in print for decades and begin telling my part in the story when my memories began forming. My first memories are with MawMaw and PawPaw and monthly visits from Wendy and a few overnight and weekend visits with my dad throughout the 70’s. In the two days from when I learned Wendy was dying until my flight to Baton Rouge, my thoughts swirled with memories of MawMaw and PawPaw, Uncle Bob and Auntie Lo, Granny, and of course Wendy.

My first memories with PawPaw is where my version of history will begin in the next chapter, my small part in his story.

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