It’s difficult to tell you my family’s history without beginning with the first few years of mine. Fortunately, the first few years of my life are accurately and concisely told in a court report easily found online or on file at the 19th Judicial District Court of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. I was the minor child, Jason Ian Partin, and four years previously I had been abandoned by my mother and father and placed in the Louisiana foster system under the Guardianship of Mr. and Mrs. Ed White; like much of my family’s history, mine is documented in court records.
In the 1976 court report, Judge JJ Lottingger had this to say about my family and our situation:
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:
“[A]s 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.
The defendant contends that the Trial Court erred in (1) awarding custody of the minor to the Whites by ex parte motion: (2) awarding custody to the father when the mother has superior rights; and (3) in requiring defendant to meet the double burden of proof as to custody.
In discussing the specifications of error, we will first determine whether the defendant must bear the “double burden” of proof in attempting to regain custody of her minor child as required by Decker v. Landry, 227 La. 603, 80 So.2d 91 (1955), rehearing denied (1955).
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.
In interpreting what the Louisiana Supreme Court meant by the language “considered decree” in establishing the “double burden” rule in Decker v. Landry, supra, this Court said in Gulino v. Gulino, 303 So.2d 299, 303 (La.App. 1st Cir. 1974), “that a considered determination of custody means a trial of the issue and decision thereon applying pertinent principles of law to the facts adduced.” We do not find that any such determination was ever made in this case, and thus hold that the “double burden” rule does not apply.
Since we have concluded that the “double burden” rule is not applicable under the facts of this case, we must determine whether the Trial Judge has abused the great discretion that is granted to him in child custody matters.
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.
Judge Lottingger didn’t follow through with his judgement, and I would languish in the foster system for another year because court systems move slowly and court records rarely tell the full story; Eventually and gradually, I transitioned into shared custody between Wendy and my dad, and I began to learn more about my biologic family.
Wendy Anne Rothdram Partin was born in Richmond Hill, Ontario, a suburb of Tornonto, in 1955. Her grandfather was Harold Hicks, a professional hockey player for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins who later retired as a senior manager in the Canadian railroad system, and her great-aunt was Edith Lang, a relatively famous socialite who had married one of Canada’s wealthiest men in her 80’s after having been a spinster all of her life and working as his secretary for more than forty years.
Grandpa Hicks had three daughters, Joyce, Lois, and Mary: My Granny, Auntie Lo, and Aunt Mary. All three would say they had a loving home life typical of post-war prosperity in Toronto, especially because their family was well known and respected and they never wanted for anything, partially because of Aunt Edith’s inheritance.
Granny and Auntie Lo were partiers, embracing the post WWII celebratory lifestyle and enjoying daily glasses of Canadian rye whiskey and an occasional splurge on good Scotch. Auntie Lo settled down and married a French Canadian named Robert M. Desico, a WWII navy veteran and a delightfully indulgent French Canadian. He was a middle manager for Montreal’s Bulk Stevedoring company and accepted a transfer to oversee the loading and unloading of shipping containers in America’s second largest port, New Orleans, and he and Auntie Lo immigrated to the United States and bought an upper middle class home in about an hour upstream of New Orleans in the smaller port town of Baton Rouge, and they settled into the French Cajun culture of southern Louisiana and would never have children. Instead, they spent their income on golf and country club dinners and a liquor cabinet with fine bottles of wine and Scotch. They were generous and tipped graciously and were adored by children and adults in their upper middle class subdivision. If they had lived until the internet, they probably would have called their lifestyle DINKs; though, technically, Auntie Lo never worked, so they were SINKs. She spent her days learning Louisiana cooking and practicing making cocktails for when Uncle Bob came home from work in New Orleans on weekends.
Granny got drunk at a party when she was a teenager in 1955, and almost ten months later Wendy was born. Granny married Wendy’s father, a man I met once as a child but whose first name I can’t recall, and fled him and took Wendy to live with Uncle Bob and Auntie Lo in Baton Rouge. Because of a quirk in international laws or simply a misunderstanding or mistake, Granny technically never divorced and therefore couldn’t easily change her name. She was a practical woman who valued simple time at home and was unencumbered by social norms, and she and Wendy kept the name Rothdram and would never bother the process of becoming American citizens or denouncing Canadian citizenship; Granny never denounced anything, and never pursued a legal divorce or said anything negative about her and Wendy’s situation.
Granny and a five year old Wendy moved in with Auntie Lo and Uncle Bob, and soon Granny work as a secretary at CoPolymer about twenty minutes north of the Baton Rouge airport at the end of I-110, a strip of industry we called Chemical Alley. She had learned from Aunt Edith, who had been a single secretary since the turn of the century and was happy and hard working, and Granny became self-taught typist who always showed up for work on time and saved her money and bought a small, 680 square foot home by the airport with three bedrooms and two baths, and a large yard with several stately oak trees draped in Spanish moss and a small drainage creek wrapped around it. The house was under the airport flight path, and planes flew over her back yard so close to the roof that you could see the faces of passengers’ faces looking out the windows and her cabinets rattled from the sound of jet engines taking off every 20 or 30 minutes, but she was content and proud of having bought a home as a single, uneducated immigrant in America; she would work as a CoPolymer secretary for 30 years and retire with a gold watch commemorating her work ethic, missing work only for a brief time in 1975, when she was hit by a drunk driver and, as my court records said, was stuck at home with an ankle injury. Besides that ankle injury and strife with Wendy during Wendy’s teenage angst, she’d live a happy life and come home from work and repose in her recliner with a bottle of Scotch and carton of Kents and her monthly Reader’s Digest books.
By 1971, Wendy was a hale and hearty 15 year old girl. She was petite, like Granny, and only 5’1″ tall. But whereas Granny was thin as a twig, Wendy was more full figured and athletic. She was on the swim team for Glen Oaks High School and played tennis and golf with Uncle Bob at his country club, and rode her bicycle to school and throughout the safe streets of Granny’s neighborhood. She was considered shy in school, but outside of school she laughed and danced frequently, and rode bikes and climbed trees with her friends Debbie LeBoux and Linda White. Most boys considered her “fine,” especially the boys who appreciated atypical southern girls nicknamed WAR who liked to ride bikes and climb trees and still had a subtle Canadian accent, like Granny. Wendy and Debbie would joke that Granny spelled Canada: C ’eh N ‘eh D ’eh, and Granny would laugh with them and tell them that the ’y’all” they said in Louisiana’s accent was proper second person plural, and they were smart enough to know that. If they needed to learn anything, Granny told them, they could use the small library in Granny’s living room, which was a simple but sturdy four-tiered bookshelf stocked with her first splurge as a homeowner, a full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica with a yearly subscription to updates, and the novels that taught her the most and an assortment of books appropriately aged for Wendy and her friends.
Wendy read typical pop culture pre-teen books but stopped reading when she became interested in boys. Her first serious boyfriend was 18 years old when she was 15, and in the spring of 1971 he graduated Glen Oaks and was drafted and shipped to basic training and then to the conflict in Vietnam. After he left, Wendy and Linda borrowed Uncle Bob’s fancy camera and captured a rare color photo of Wendy dancing in Granny’s back yard, just as the azelea blooms were ending their spring bloom, and the red azelea tucked above Wendy’s ear accented her long, straight strawberry blonde hair. Her hazel eyes were closed, but she was twirling with a broad smile on her face and crinkles around her eyes and she seemed as happy as a a 15 year old girl could be.
It took a while to develop that photo because she procrastinated and back then you dropped off film negatives and waited one to two weeks to see the result, if you remembered to go to the store to pick up your photos. She lost track of time that summer, but eventually she picked up her photos and placed the one of her dancing with a flower in her hair in an envelope addressed to her boyfriend, and she wrote a letter that said she hoped to see him as soon as he got back. But, just before she sent it she learned he was shot and killed in Vietnam in August. Distraught and guilty for not writing him sooner, she may have had a slight nervous breakdown. And she felt ignored by Granny, who spent long days working and evenings reposing and may not have had the time and energy to see to all of her daughters needs, especially in the years of teenage angst when transient needs were plentiful, and Wendy felt unloved and demanded to return to Canada where her dad lived and there was no draft and young boyfriends didn’t die because their government demanded it, and she imagined that her father would take care of her and love her more than her perpetually busy working mother.
Granny was a practical woman who favored experiential learning over lectures, so she forewent her good bottles of Scotch and scrimped on meals and bought Wendy an airplane ticket to Toronto. Wendy met her dad and he greated her coldly, without a hug, and said he had a wife and four children and no room in his life for Wendy, and she returned to Baton Rouge depressed and began smoking marijuana to make going to school and being stuck indoors all day tolerable. Her mood was made worse by well-intended teachers and neighbors, believing they were being nice by asking questions typical of southerners, like “Who’s your momma?” “What does your daddy do?” “Where do y’all go to church?” Wendy was ashamed that her dad didn’t want her, and Granny hadn’t remarried and had nonuse for church. Her classmates asked similar questions, but with details they knew, like “When’s your boyfriend coming home,” and Wendy’s depression grew and she became even more reticent at school and home.
In the fall of 1971, Wendy’s junior year of high school, she turned 16 and met my dad, Edward Grady Partin Junior, a tall, strong, handsome, and intense looking 17 year old and senior at Glen Oaks with long black hair and brown eyes so dark they seemed black. He rarely smiled, and seemed angry all the time. He was reputed to be Glen Oak’s drug dealer. Though Glen Oaks was in a relatively low income area, my dad always seemed to drive nice, new cars and have abundant marijuana, and he was known to be impervious to legal prosecution because he was the son of newspapers said was the south’s most notorious and ruthless labor leader, president of Teamsters Local #5. He was a stereotypical bad boy that young women seemed drawn to, and Wendy was smitten by his rugged good looks and defiance to authority and seemingly never ending supply of marijuana and recreational opiates and nice cars.
To understand my dad it’s useful to know that, at the time, his father, Edward Grady Partin Senior, was nationally famous for being set free from jail by US Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to testify against international Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa. My grandfather’s 1964 testimony sent Hoffa to prison for eight years, and he was a national celebrity for most of the 60’s and 70’s as Hoffa fought his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court and lost and then famously vanished soon after being released from prison around the time I was born.
To understand my grandfather, and therefore my dad’s situation as a teenager in the 60’s and 70’s, it’s useful to begin with President Kennedy’s 1963 assassination and Jimmy Hoffa’s 1975 disappearance.
In November of 1963, the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and and US Attorney General Bobby Kennedy warned President John F. Kennedy of a plot to kill him, but the president chose to proceed as planned for his trip to Dallas, Texas. On November 23rd, he was riding through downtown Dallas and was shot and killed by at least one sniper. Within hours, Dallas police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald for murdering a local police officer in the minutes after Kennedy was shot, and then they charged Oswald with killing the president.
Oswald was a former US marine and defector to the Soviet Union who had been born in New Orleans and trained in Baton Rouge who had recently moved to Dallas with his Soviet wife and newborn baby. When arrested, he said he was “a patsy” and being set up as part of a larger plot. Fourty eight hours later, he was shot and killed on live television Dallas police escorted him out of the police station in handcuffs. The assassin, a low-level mafia associate and associate of Jimmy Hoffa and my grandfather, Jack Ruby, said initially that he shot Oswald out of love for the Kennedy’s and to spare Mrs. Kennedy the emotional pain of a trial by jury; two years later, before he died in prison, he would change his story and say he was part in a bigger plot and that government agents were poisoning him and giving him cancer; he died of an embolism secondary to lung cancer, and had been a lifelong smoker.
To this day, most reputable surveys show that few American’s believe the 1964 conclusion by US Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren that Oswald acted alone when he shot and killed Kennedy; more than 2,000 respected books have been written to share information and reach a conclusion, countless documentaries have expounded on conspiracy theories, and the massive 1979 Congressional report on JFK’s assassination would reverse the 888 page Warren Report’s conclusion and say that President Kennedy’s death was probably part of a bigger plot and likely orchestrated by one of three leading suspects: Jimmy Hoffa, New Orleans mafia boss Carlos Marcello, and Miami mafia boss Santos Trafficante Junior. As part of their evidence was a 1962 FBI report authorized by Hoover and presumably shared with Bobby Kennedy, and that report said that a year before President Kennedy was shot and killed, my grandfather and Jimmy Hoffa had plotted to kill Bobby Kennedy by the same method: a sniper as Kennedy rode through a southern town in his convertible. In the report, Hoover said that Hoffa and my grandfather initially plotted to blow up Bobby’s house with plastic explosives, that my grandfather was presumably to obtain from his contact with Marcello; but, if that failed, Hoffa allegedly said that they should recruit someone to shoot Kennedy with a sniper rifle outfitted with a scope as Kennedy rode through a southern town in his convertible. If they recruited someone, Hoffa said, there shouldn’t be a way to connect the shooter to the Teamsters. Oswald, who was from New Orleans, was never connected with the Teamsters, but Jack Ruby was an associate of both Hoffa and my grandfather, though that wasn’t known at the time and wouldn’t be discovered for many more years, long after people stopped paying attention to details of suspects in the Kennedy and Oswald assassinations.
In 1964, my grandfather was in jail for kidnapping and manslaughter when Bobby Kennedy released him in exchange for finding any evidence to send Hoffa to prison for any thing, and later that year Hoffa was sentenced to eight years in prison based solely on my grandfather’s sworn testimony. The FBI report on him and Hoffa would remain classified until 1992, though it was common knowledge in my family throughout my lifetime. But, as part of the deal with Bobby Kennedy, our family was sworn to silence and overseen by FBI agents throughout the 60’s and 70’s, when my dad was a teenage boy dealing with angst and family drama. And, like most people, he looked up to his father, literally.
My grandfather, whom everyone in Baton Rouge called Big Daddy, was a physically large and intimidating man. He was shockingly handsome and had blonde hair and sky blue eyes and a subtle and perpetual smile, and he had a southern drawl and charming way of speaking that led to people trusting him. Though charming, most people and books that mention him imply that one instantly felt a sense that he was not to be crossed; admired and listened to, but never contradicted or challenged.
Many records of Big Daddy’s history have disappeared, presumably because of his deal with Bobby Kennedy, but his background was captured in the 1972 book “The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa,” by former FBI agent and head of the Get Hoffa Task Force, Walter Sheridan, who finished his book with FBI surveillance of my family the week of my birth date, coincidentally and presumably unknowingly by Sheridan. By then, Sheridan had retired from the FBI and had become a well respected NBC news journalist; though he made a few errors that weren’t caught by his publisher.
“Partin, like Hoffa, had come up the hard way. While Hoffa was building his power base in Detroit during the early forties, Partin was drifting around the country getting in and out of trouble with the law. When he was seventeen he received a bad conduct discharge from the Marine Corps in the state of Washington for stealing a watch. [That wasn’t true: he punched a captain and was discharged for assaulting an officer, though I heard he removed the unconscious captain’s watch. JiP] One month later he was charged in Roseburg, Oregon, for car theft. The case was dismissed with the stipulation that Partin return to his home in Natchez, Mississippi. Two years later Partin was back on the West Coast where he pleaded guilty to second degree burglary. He served three yeas in the Washington State Reformatory and was parolled in February, 1947. [Hoffa claimed Big Daddy had escaped from the Washington prison twice; he never admitted either version, and those records have disappeared. JiP] One year later, back in Mississippi, Partin was again in trouble and served ninety days on a plea to a charge of petit larceny. Then he decided to settle down. He joined the Teamsters Union, went to work, and married a quiet, attractive Baton Rouge girl. [That wasn’t true: my grandmother was from Spring Hill, near Texarkana, and moved to Baton Rouge to join Big Daddy after the local trucking union was absorbed by Hoffa’s international Teamsters, and she wasn’t quiet; she was vociferously opinionated among friends and family and was disciplined enough to remain silent around FBI agents and reporters. But, most people agreed that she was as gorgeous as a movie star, like the famous model that shared her name, Norma Jean, better known as Maralyn Monroe. JiP] In 1952 he was elected to the top post in Local 5 in Baton Rouge. When Hoffa pushed his sphere of influence into Louisiana, Partin joined forces and helped to forcibly install Hoffa’s man, Chuck Winters from Chicago, as the head of the Teamsters in New Orleans.”
In Hoffa’s authorized biography, published just before he disappeared in 1975, he described my grandfather concisely: “Edward Grady Partin was a big, rough man who could charm a snake off a rock,” and almost all books about Hoffa expound on his charm and southern accent and physical prowess. In major films about Hoffa, Ed Partin’s always portrayed by physically large men who guard Hoffa’s door against FBI agents and mafia hitmen while secretly monitoring what was being said. Walter’s 1972 book is as massive as Big Daddy was, and rarely a dozen pages go by without Walter mentioning my family and what was happening in the years that my dad was a teenager.
My dad and his four siblings had been in hiding in the 1960’s, dispersed among hunting and fishing camps in Louisiana and Texas by my grandmother, Norma Jean Partin, whom everyone called Mamma Jean. Big Daddy had met Mamma Jean when she was an 18 year old young lady and he was a 26 year old up and coming labor leader in Mississippi. She thought he was handsome and charming and would make a good husband and father, and six weeks later they were married and began having their five children. She didn’t know he was already married to two women and had children with them, nor did she know his criminal history and that he had been dishonorably discharged from the marines. She began to learn about him and suspect that he was involved with the mafia and began to worry for her children’s safety. She fled Big Daddy in 1962, just before J. Edgar Hoover recorded Big Daddy and Hoffa plotting to kill Kennedy, and she took their children and hid them from Big Daddy, the violent Teamsters who frequented her house, and mafia leaders at a time in America when the mafia and organized crime was unrecognized by the government yet was becoming known by the public as violent men above the law. She did what she had to do to keep her children safe.
Soon after, Big Daddy was arrested for kidnapping in Baton Rouge for kidnapping in Baton Rouge and manslaughter in Mississippi – remarkably, and to emphasize Mamma Jean’s concerns, Big Daddy had been arrested for helping a fellow teamster named Sydney Simpson kidnap his two young children soon after a judge awarding their custody to the mother. But, U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy had Big Daddy released within fourty eight hours and left Simpson in jail by himself to face charges alone, and Bobby began expunging Big Daddy’s criminal record and polishing his background to seem more like an All American hero and the type of person a jury should trust.
Walter Sheridan oversaw the team that found Mamma Jean and my dad and his siblings. He convinced her to reunite her children and delay her divorce so that Big Daddy could be portrayed as an honest man; in exchange, she would be given a house in Texas and provided a monthly living allowance equivalent to what she would get from alimony in divorce court.
The whitewashing of Big Daddy worked, and in 1964 a jury believed his testimony that Hoffa asked him to bribe a juror in a minor, state-level labor law trial, the Test Fleet case, and they sentenced Jimmy Hoffa to prison for eight years for the much more severe federal offense of jury tampering; ironically, shortly after testifying against Hoffa, Big Daddy would be arrested for perjury, yet that didn’t seem to stop the momentum of Bobby sending Hoffa to prison.
For Hoffa to be freed from prison, Big Daddy would have to be alive and recant his testimony and admit that he bore false witness and committed perjury, which would lead him to his own prison sentence. Teamsters loyal to Hoffa would have to threaten Big Daddy or my family to get him to recant and risk prison. He didn’t, and Hoffa implied to New Orleans mafia boss Carlos Marcello and Miami boss and Cuban exhile Carlos Terriffante Junior that their debts would be forgiven in Big Daddy recanted; each owed Hoffa approximately $18 Million that he had lent them and Los Vegas mafia bosses to build Vegas casinos and fund other projects, all money from the unregulated Teamster pension fund that the Kennedy’s had been trying to reign in for decades.
Mamma Jean, like most of my family, was placed under protection against Teamster and mafia retaliation by J. Edgar Hoover and a team of federal marshals. In the years leading to my birth, Big Daddy’s criminal record continued to vanish bit by bit, and he and my teenage dad continued to benefit from federal protection that overrode state laws and frustrated Louisiana governors and district attorneys, including the famous trial by New Orleans district attorney Pat Harrison that, to this day, was the only trial against someone for Kennedy’s murder; Big Daddy was summoned based on a photo of him and Jack Ruby shortly before Oswald’s assassination, and testimonies that he also knew Oswald, but the photo and witnesses disappeared. Nationally, my grandfather was celebrated as a handsome, charming man who could navigate any government system.
Big Daddy’s legal immunity, and therefore my dad’s legal immunity, were so overt that Chief Justice Earl Warren ranted about it in his comments for the supreme court case Hoffa vs. The United States. Warren was already a household name, having just authored the Warren Report on President Kennedy’s assassination, which was international news and daily debate among almost everyone on Earth. For almost 40 years Warren was known as practical and impartial to all but the constitution, and he had overseen landmark supreme court cases like Roe vs. Wade, Brown vs. The Board of Education, and the case that gave us Miranda Rights.
Warren was the only one of nine supreme court judges to vote against using Big Daddy’s testimony to prosecute Hoffa, and. like Judge JJ Lottingger in my court report, Warren documented his thoughts and reasoning for his decision and permanently attached it to court records so that prosperity could ponder what happened. In my mind, he tells us a lot about what happened that, somehow, I always felt that the thousands of books on Hoffa and Kennedy seem to keep overlooking.
Here, Edward Partin, a jailbird languishing in a Louisiana jail under indictments for such state and federal crimes as embezzlement, kidnapping, and manslaughter (and soon to be charged with perjury and assault), contacted federal authorities and told them he was willing to become, and would be useful as, an informer against Hoffa, who was then about to be tried in the Test Fleet case. A motive for his doing this is immediately apparent — namely, his strong desire to work his way out of jail and out of his various legal entanglements with the State and Federal Governments. And it is interesting to note that, if this was his motive, he has been uniquely successful in satisfying it. In the four years since he first volunteered to be an informer against Hoffa he has not been prosecuted on any of the serious federal charges for which he was at that time jailed, and the state charges have apparently vanished into thin air.
This type of informer and the uses to which he was put in this case evidence a serious potential for undermining the integrity of the truthfinding process in the federal courts. Given the incentives and background of Partin, no conviction should be allowed to stand when based heavily on his testimony. And that is exactly the quicksand upon which these convictions rest, because, without Partin, who was the principal government witness, there would probably have been no convictions here.
Here, the Government reaches into the jailhouse to employ a man who was himself facing indictments far more serious (and later including one for perjury) than the one confronting the man against whom he offered to inform. It employed him not for the purpose of testifying to something that had already happened, but rather for the purpose of infiltration to see if crimes would in the future be committed. The Government, in its zeal, even assisted him in gaining a position from which he could be a witness to the confidential relationship of attorney and client engaged in the preparation of a criminal defense. And, for the dubious evidence thus obtained, the Government paid an enormous price.
Warren even mentions Mamma Jean, briefly, when he describes how Big Daddy infiltrated Hoffa’s inner circle in the Test Fleet case being tried in Nashville, Tennessee.
Upon his arrival in Nashville, Partin manifested his “friendship” and made himself useful to Hoffa, thereby worming his way into Hoffa’s hotel suite and becoming part and parcel of Hoffa’s entourage. As the “faithful” servant and factotum of the defense camp which he became, he was in a position to overhear conversations not directed to him, many of which were between attorneys and either their client or prospective defense witnesses. Pursuant to the general instructions he received from federal authorities to report “any attempts at witness intimidation or tampering with the jury,” “anything illegal,” or even “anything of interest,” Partin became the equivalent of a bugging device which moved with Hoffa wherever he went. Everything Partin saw or heard was reported to federal authorities, and much of it was ultimately the subject matter of his testimony in this case. For his services, he was well paid by the Government, both through devious and secret support payments to his wife and, it may be inferred, by executed promises not to pursue the indictments under which he was charged at the time he became an informer.
Warren was the only one of nine supreme court justices to deny Big Daddy’s testimony, saying:
I cannot agree that what happened in this case is in keeping with the standards of justice in our federal system, and I must, therefore, dissent.
Interestingly, though Warren dissented, the Supreme Court upheld Big Daddy’s testimony, and to this day the methods Bobby used to convict Hoffa are cited and somehow justify new federal surveilance testimonies, like President George W. Bush’s 2005 controversial surveillance without warrants following 9/11, and for untold “devious and secret support payments” to high profile informants in exchange for their sworn testimony. In a way, Big Daddy’s story continues to connect all of us.
When Hoffa his final appeal to the Supreme Court, I believe the mafia realized that Big Daddy couldn’t be bribed or threatened, and that they would be better off if Hoffa remained in prison and was unable to demand his money back, and the best way to keep Hoffa in prison was to ensure Big Daddy couldn’t change his mind and recant his testimony, and the best way to silence my grandfather was to kill him. The Partins weren’t in a witness protection program and the attacks on my family increased, and Big Daddy was shot and several of my family member’s homes were blown up and burnt to the ground. Hoover increased the number of federal marshalls protecting the Partins, and Big Daddy began traveling with an entourage of bodyguards comprised of big, rough Baton Rouge Teamsters and former LSU football players as bodyguards. He became as famous in Louisiana as Hoffa had been nationally.
While my family was being attacked and though Hoffa was in prison, the former Teamster president used his influence to fund Richard Nixon’s 1971 presidential campaign and promised the support and votes of millions of Teamsters if Nixon could get Big Daddy to recant. As Sheridan expounded on in the final pages of “The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa,” Nixon sent national hero Audrey Murphy to Baton Rouge to negotiate with my grandfather, and Murphy died in a plane crash shortly after Wendy met my dad and shortly before I was conceived. Big Daddy was a suspect in Murphy’s death, though those records disappeared, too.
By the time Judge Lottingger took over my 1975 court case, Jimmy Hoffa had been pardoned by President Nixon just before Nixon resigned his presidency, and then Hoffa famously vanished from a Detroit parking lot in July 1975. That’s when Judge Lottingger took over my case, and most of my grandfather’s criminal background and relationship with Hoffa was popular culture in 1975 and on the front page of Louisiana newspapers almost weekly, and I assume Judge Lottingger, who had 30 years of respected service in Louisiana legislative courts before taking over my case, read the newspaper and would have known my Partin history. He would have known that my grandfather had been arrested for kidnapping children of a contested custody court verdict, and he probably knew that my dad had a history of criminal charges for drug dealing that seemed to vanish, just like Chief Justice Warren said that Big Daddy’s records were vanishing. But, as Lottingger wrote, the court wasn’t concerned with details of the marriage and divorce and only with the welfare of the minor child, which was me. For now, I think it’s safe to say that Wendy and my dad were both young teenagers with complex histories, and we can forgive them for whatever they did or did not do in 1972. From my perspective, all of that’s ancient history, especially the parts about Hoffa and Kennedy that happened before I was born.
My first memories of my Partin family are from when I was with Ed White, and my version of his story begins in the next chapter. To save an uninterested reader time, most of what I recall about my family is already written in Hoffa vs the United States, The Warren Report, The JFK Assassination Report, Hoffa on Hoffa, The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa, and From My Brother’s Shadow; albeit all are muddled with a massive amount of other information. But most people with a computer can download those records and isolate the relevant parts by searching for pages containing combinations of the names Partin, Hoffa, Kennedy, Marcello, or Traficante; the 1979 congressional report on JFK’s assassination reversed the Warren Report and said that Kennedy was probably killed by a conspiracy likely orchestrated by Hoffa, Marcello, or Trafficante, and all were associates of Big Daddy, just like Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby had been. I don’t know anything more about what happened to Hoffa and Kennedy than what’s listed in those references, and my memories of that time are obviously flawed because I was so young; where possible, I try to relate my memories to news events that help keep my timeline linear.
Edward Grady Partin Senior was a big man with a part in history, and this book is simply my perspective from growing up as a small part in his story, and it begins in 1975, around the time Judge Lottingger removed me from the home of Mr. and Mrs. White and returned me to Wendy and my dad. My memories are more of Mr. White, who I called Paw Paw, Auntie Lo, Uncle Bob, Granny, my family in Canada, and all of Big Daddy’s family, even the ones expunged from records. Like many memoirs, there’s less of a plot than a series of events that create who you are, and my events are centered around people that helped me emancipate from what most people would consider a dysfunctional and violent family.
I’ll try to make it worth your time.
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