My grandfather was Edward Grady Partin Senior. In the 1950’s and 60’s, he ran the Baton Rouge Teamsters Union. He and the national teamster leader, Jimmy Hoffa, plotted to assassinate Kennedy, and his testimony sent Hoffa to prison. I need to share his story, in order to tell another story.
This story is not about Kennedy, Hoffa, Castro, or Partin; this story is about my experiences with the United States systems for child foster care, education, mental health, and incarcerations.
The numbers speak for themselves. Each year, more than 400,000 kids are in the U.S. foster system. They have inconsistent opportunities; they are likely to perform poorly in school, and will resist the emotions of trust and love to protect themselves. 80% of emancipated foster kids will go to jail, where 55% of the prisoners have reading disabilities. They will not improve much in this system.
Only 15% will attend college, and not all will graduate. Fewer than 3% attend graduate school.
Most get trapped in a cycle of prison life. Society spends more money imprisoning them than preventing this from happening. Small gaps in education and healthcare at a young age, when children have no voice, contribute to poor choices, and a lifelong of negative consequences, and more cost to society.
Emancipated kids do not have a race. They have no distinguishing physical features, yet they are an undeniable drag on society. Among them are murderers, thieves, sinners, scientists, inventors, coaches, and saviors.
Growing up in the foster system, I thought that Jesus was a foster child, in a way. And I the Buddha abandoned his son. Mohamed commanded his followers support orphans – I assume because it’s not in our nature to do so. I had often asked why no one wanted me, but I never learned. I was emancipated at age 16, and ever since then I’ve sought ways for all foster kids to have equitable education and healthcare.
I was emancipated in 1989, before my senior year in high school, and a few months before my grandfather passed away. His story begins with Jimmy Hoffa and President John F. Kennedy.
Jimmy Hoffa’s 2.7 million Teamsters paid monthly union dues, and Hoffa had been using the dues to lend millions of dollars to organized crime families to build Las Vegas casinos, and to fund Hollywood movies. Teamster workers built the casinos and moved the movie sets, and they were guaranteed high wages and benefits in exchange for their monthly dues.
President John Kennedy tasked his brother, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, to stop the Teamsters and the mafia. Hoffa and Bobby began a series of escalating confrontations in what newspapers dubbed “The Blood Feud.”
The Blood Feud was at its strongest in 1963, when the FBI reported that Jimmy Hoffa, Edward Partin, and an undisclosed third Teamster plotted to murder Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. They discussed using a lone gunman who couldn’t be traced to the Teamsters.
In their 1963 plan, an assassin would use a military sniper rifle and shoot Bobby as he drove through a southern city in one of the government’s convertible cars, probably waving to people who would turn out to see famous politicians driving through thier downtown streets. Hoffa said it was critical that the lone gunman not be traced back to the Teamsters. And, as a backup, he discussed using explosives against Bobby and his entire family, if necessary. In response, my grandfather rented a few houses in Baton Rouge, and used them to store plastic explosives and cash.
A year later, President John Kennedy was assassinated using the same plan. Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed the president with a sniper rife on November 22nd, 1963, as Kennedy waved at people from the back of his convertible in Dallas, Texas. Oswald had lived in Louisiana, and had trained at the Baton Rouge Civil Air Patrol, near the Baton Rouge airport, a mile from where Edward Partin had bought a house for his mother.
Two days after he shot Kennedy, an associate of Hoffa’s shot and killed Oswald.
As Attorney General, Bobby would have had access to the FBI reports, and though the FBI never obtained enough evidence to convict Hoffa or my grandfather, many people believe that Bobby was convinced that his brother was killed by Hoffa. He couldn’t convict Hoffa because the evidence was circumstantial.
Bobby Kennedy told America that he’d put Hoffa in prison, and the public rivalry between the two men was national news. Even FBI reports and Supreme Court decisions commented on the “hatred” between the two men as motives for anything against each other.
Kennedy’s federal task force pursued Hoffa for any crime they could, and in 1964 Hoffa was arrested for violating union laws. Bobby Kennedy oversaw the prosecution, and wanted to ensure any jury would send Hoffa to prison.
Around the time of Hoffa’s 1965 trial, my grandfather was arrested for kidnapping and manslaughter. He sent word to Bobby Kennedy, and a few days later he was released from jail, and his charges disappeared.
At that time, my grandmother had been in hiding, and had hid her five children among different relatives throughout the south, including my dad. She told me that Bobby Kennedy asked her to portray their family as wholesome and loving, but she told him she loved Jesus, and He would guide her to follow the ten commandments, so she would not lie. But, she said, the Lord works in mysterious ways, and she agreed to accept what Bobby’s men offered her: a new house, and a monthly living allowance to support her children. She saw a way for a single mother without an education to support children without a husband providing a paycheck, and she accepted.
Shortly before Hoffa’s trial, my family was portrayed in national news and magazines as an ideal family. The images even showed Ed Partin connected to a lie detector machine, and FBI scientists explained the results to Americans. My grandfather was trustworthy, they said.
Life and Look magazines sent photographers to Baton Rouge, and portrayed my grandfather as a caring father to his five children. He’s a good father, they said. They showed him leading Teamsters to support Teacher’s unions. He’s community-minded, they said. My grandmother wasn’t portrayed; she would have had other things to say, if they had asked.
Edward Grady Partin became a national celebrity for a few weeks. Hoffa’s jury was selected, then they were kept from national news, so that they would not be influenced in their decision.
At Hoffa’s trial, the federal prosecutors called a surprise witness, and my grandfather stood up. Hoffa lowered his head, and said, “Damn. It’s Partin.”
Partin testified that Hoffa asked him to bribe one of the jurors. It was his word against Hoffa’s, and the jury believed my grandfather; everyone always said he was charming.
His testimony sent Hoffa to prison for 13 years for jury tampering, and Hoffa appealed and fought the verdict all the way to the Supreme Court, stating the obvious: Partin lied to get out of jail, and to receive immunity. Yet somehow all but one of the Chief Justices allowed Partin’s testimony. Hoffa lost his appeals, and began his prison sentence in 1966.
Hoffa apent the next five years in a jail cell, ruminating about what happened. After he was released early, he wrote in his autobiography, “Edward Partin was a big, rough man who could charm a snake off a rock,” and then spent an entire chapter detailing my grandfather’s reputation as a criminal, and ranting about how Bobby Kennedy had used Partin’s charm to fool America and the Supreme Court.
He was right: my grandfather was charming. None of us knew the details of his life outside of our family, but we learned a lot over the next few years. None of us learned all of his secrets, and neither did the FBI.
The government assigned FBI agents to follow my family for the rest of my grandfather’s life, and even in 1990 they called every day as he was dying, asking if he had told us anything. He said, “No one will ever know my role in changing the course of history.” He asked for forgiveness for his murders, rapes, lying, adultery, and violence; then he died.
Hoffa disappeared in 1975, three years after I was born. I was 17 when my grandfather died in 1990. I didn’t know him well, because I had been in foster care. Most of what I know is from FBI reports and court records, and my early memories are a confusing jumble of intense experiences and emotions. It wasn’t until 2020 that I tried to make a story out of my part in family.
Some of my memories sounded delusional: mafia blowing up our house, Hoffa’s men shooting my grandfather, or Grandma Foster calling the Kennedy’s when she couldn’t pay her mortgage. As a teenager, I dismissed those stories as crazy ramblings of people I didn’t know very well. I didn’t even like them very much.
I was emancipated in 1989, when I was 16 years old, and by that time both my dad and grandfather had gone to prison again. A judge made me a legal adult, and I was free from my part in family. I left Louisiana in 1990, shortly after my grandfather’s funeral. Now, 30 years later, with 2020 hindsight, I’m sharing my story.
This story has nothing to do with Hoffa or Kennedy or Castro. It’s not even about Ed Partin, because I’m just a small part in his story. This is about choices, and Nature vs. Nurture, and what happened after I left Louisiana.
Though I’m not famous, and you’ve probably never heard of me, I overcame a few challenges and achieved what most people would consider a successful life. If I were any other middle aged white male, it would seem silly to discuss overcoming obstacles in a world where racism and poverty impact other people more than me. But that’s because being a foster kid has hidden disadvantages, and we never know someone’s history by looking at them.
I’m the first Partin male to graduate high school, go to college and graduate school, and not go to prison. Many other people have achieved more or have overcome more. My story is unique only because my family was a small part in history, and I’ve had the time to focus on what allowed me to break the cycle.
It’s a work in progress, and this blog includes book chapter prototypes and ideas for brainstorming. Your feedback could help make history more entertaining and useful: Contact me to discuss anything.
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