But then came the killing shot that was to nail me to the cross.
Edward Grady Partin.
And Life magazine once again was Robert Kenedy’s tool. He figured that, at long last, he was going to dust my ass and he wanted to set the public up to see what a great man he was in getting Hoffa.
Life quoted Walter Sheridan, head of the Get-Hoffa Squad, that Partin was virtually the all-American boy even though he had been in jail “because of a minor domestic problem.”– Jimmy Hoffa
“And Kennedy made him an All American hero?” my neighbor, Carleton summarized. We were sitting on the balcony enjoying some freshly brewed herb tea from the edible and medicinal garden across the street and had nowhere else to be that day.
“And that’s the only reason he didn’t go to jail for rape, murder, kidnapping, and, ironically, perjury? And that’s why all those people tried to kill your family?Just for Kennedy to get Hoffa? Wow.”
His wife, Lysandra, nodded enthusiastic agreement at “Wow.”
Carleton was a 32 year old visual artist who had attended film school and earned his livelihood designing web sites for local businesses. Lysandra was a pilates and yoga instructor with a handful of local clients. They had flexible schedules, and they sometimes joined me and Cranky Ken on the balcony for happy hour. But, they rarely chimed in, and we mostly listened to Ken. They had become interested in the books on my shelf after seeing the Irishman in one of the downtown theaters, and were perplexed why my grandfather had such a small role, especially because all the books went into much more detail, as if trying to get someone’s attention about a bigger picture than just Hoffa and Kennedy.
To most people younger than about 50 or 60 years old, Hoffa and Kennedy were ancient history. As Frank said in The Irishman, much more succinctly than I have:
“Nowadays, young people, they don’t know who Jimmy Hoffa was. They don’t have a clue. I mean, maybe they know that he disappeared or something, but that’s about it. But back then, there wasn’t nobody in this country who didn’t know who Jimmy Hoffa was.”
It’s hard to share their history and have conversations about how our daily life is still affected by everything that happened in the 60’s. And it’s difficult to convey the intensity of Hoffa and Kennedy’s ten year Blood Feud; sometimes, I mention that Robert Blake won an academy award in 1983’s “Blood Feud” for “channeling Hoffa’s rage.” In other words, people back then remembered him well enough that he wasn’t a portrayal of a character in films, a Zerox of a photocopy. People remembered him, and they remembered Ed Partin, and though Brian Dennehey didn’t win an award for showcasing my grandfather’s subtle smile and charming accent, they looked enough alike to satisfy the masses who knew both men. The actor that portrayed Bobby Kennedy was also well chosen, and was a famous daytime soap opera heartthrob, which appealed to the people who remembered him and still mourned his 1968 murder. But it was now 2018, 54 years after Bobby Kennedy was shot outside of his hotel, and 35 years after The Blood Feud won accolades. In the 2017 The Irishman, my grandfather was portrayed by Craig Vincent, a big rough guy, but who looked and sounded Italian, not southern, and no one noticed the difference except a few of us still alive who knew my grandfather.
“And hardly any records remain,” I emphasized. “As recently as 2005, Baton Rouge made news headlines when a handful of men claiming to be FBI raided the police station and removed all of my grandfather’s records, including records of when Walter Sheridan and Bobby Kennedy got him out of jail for kidnapping and manslaughter in 1962. Doug said he checked the Mississippi courthouse records for the 1949 rape trial; I never did. Regardless of each detail, I think it’s fascinating that, bit by bit, the records about my family’s part in history are vanishing. The more I research a book, the more I’m relying on my memory – and we know how bad that is – or here-say from other books.”
Any internet search today shows that my grandfather was then nationally famous and always dishonest person, probably. He was the Baton Rouge Teamster leader who worked with Bobby Kennedy to send Jimmy Hoffa to prison, and he had been showcased nationally for almost a decade ever since he had been the surprise witness who sent international Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa to prison in 1964. Few Americans knew the truth about Big Daddy, because he was good at keeping secretes and because Bobby Kennedy and Walter Sheridan had expunged his long history of criminal activity from court houses and newspaper archives across the country. But Walter kept many of his FBI records, and he listed some of Big Daddy’s history his 1972 book, Walter wrote:
“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.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. 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. 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.”
My grandfather’s records began disappearing as early as 1962, when Bobby released him from jail for manslaughter and kidnapping. Even the highest levels of our judicial system couldn’t uncover factual evidence, to the chagrin of Chief Justice Earl Warren, a forty year veteran of the supreme court and author of the famous 888 page Warren Report on Kennedy’s assassination.
“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. Shortly after Partin made contact with the federal authorities and told them of his position in the Baton Rouge Local of the Teamsters Union and of his acquaintance with Hoffa, his bail was suddenly reduced from $50,000 to $5,000 and he was released from jail,”
Earl Warren wasn’t the only person perplexed by Big Daddy’s vanishing criminal history. Jimmy Hoffa had hundreds of millions of dollars at his disposal, and he hired the best lawyers possible to discredit Big Daddy, men who defended high profile cases and mafia bosses and knew how to find information and intimidate witnesses, yet even they found nothing in the years of appeals between Big Daddy’s 1964 testimony. Their comments about Ed Partin in all of their books ooze frustration; and, at the same time, admiration. They were the best of the best at hiding and finding records, and they were stumped by whatever force was behind Partin.
Warren summarized Hoffa’s attorneys efforts in Hoffa vs The United States:
“Partin underwent cross-examination for an entire week. The defense was afforded wide latitude to probe Partin’s background, character, and ties to the authorities; it was permitted to explore matters that are normally excludable, for example, whether Partin had been charged with a crime in 1942, even though that charge had never been prosecuted.”
“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.”
Lysandra said, “Of course he did. Your grandfather had every reason to lie to a jury.”
Carleton chimed in, “And his charges of perjury were available to the supreme court.”
I looked at Carleton and his lovely wife, Lysandra, and chose my words. Few people understand the supreme court system or realize how rare it is to bring a case to it; out of eighty thousand or so cases, only forty to sixty ever see the supreme court. Once the supreme court makes a decision, all future somewhat similar cases refererence it, and the court’s decision has ripple effects for decades. Warren was a household name even before the Warren Report, because he had overseen landmark cases like Roe vs. Wade, Brown vs. The Board of Education, and the case that led to Miranda Rights being read at every arrest.
“Warren was the only one of nine judges to vote against allowing my grandfather’s testimony to send Hoffa to prison,” I said. “Two refrained from voting, and six sided with the prosecution even with all of the obvious meddeling with out judicial system. J. Edgar Hoover had personally vouched for Ed Partin and had even overseen his lie detector tests. Of course, Hoover is now famous for blackmailing politicians and military leaders with FBI surveillance – people like to keep their private livers private – and I’ve always suspected that he had something on the other supreme court justices.”
Lysandra laughed delightfully and said that it must not be that supreme of a court.
“And all of this was in plain sight?” Carleton said, rhetorically and to himself. “I wonder what they’d say if they knew Hoover turned out to be a crossdresser himself? Would that erase McCarthism from our history books? What happens when a supreme court case is reexamined decades later? Do all of the cases that used it change, too?”
“And it gets better,” I said, reaching for a book on my bookshelf.
“This one, In Hoffa’s Shadow, came out recently. It’s about Chucky O’Brien, the guy Pecci portrays in The Irishman. Chucky was Hoffa’s stepson and a low-level enforcer in the Teamsters, but fiercely loyal to Hoffa. Chucky’s stepson wrote this book, and he’s now a famous lawyer in the White House. In his book, he expounds on Hoffa vs The United States because that case was used by the Bush Administration to justify tapping the phones of all Americans without a warrant in the Patriot Act. In other words, if the original 1964 trial was bullshit but the 1966 supreme court allowed it, despite Warren’s warnings, then our judicial system can keep referencing bullshit, and the cycle continues.”
“Wow,” Carleton said again.
“And this bit is interesting,” I said, pointing to a line about my grandmother, Mamma Jean.
“… Partin’s wife received four monthly installment payments of $300 from government funds, and the state and federal charges against Partin were either dropped or not actively pursued.”
“Unless my memory is really, really warped, I recall Mamma Jean saying she was paid up until Big Daddy went to prison in 1980; and all of us knew she had a house bought for her in a nice Houston suburb. And my Grandma Foster, Big Daddy’s momma, mentioned to me several times how grateful she was for Bobby buying her a house, too, and for her bills to somehow vanish over the years, as if by magic or a fairy godfather.”
We chewed on that for a while and got up and went to our respective kitchens and came back with a cornocopia of snacks to share. We didn’t discuss anything serious for a while, and got a little high and threw Frisbee the rest of the day until Cristi and Hope came home from their own adventure in Balboa Park. As wonderful of a day as that was, I was still distracted, thinking about my father, and I kept thinking about him in the back of my mind.
A lot is written about my grandfather, Edward Grady Partin Senior, but less is written about my father, Edward Grady Partin Junior.
My dad was born in 1954 as the third of five children to Norma Jean Partin and Edward Grady Partin Senior. Norma Jean was a gorgeous, confident, well spoken redhead with dark brown eyes and a voluptuous figure. She was from Spring Hill, Louisiana, near Texarkana and the tri-state border of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. She was so stunning that people compared her to the famous model and actress Marilyn Monroe, whose real name was also Norma Jean, and by 18 years old the beautiful Norma Jean that would become my Mamma Jean was courted by almost every man who meet her, and many made the comparison to Marilyn Monroe in efforts to flatter her.
Her family was spread across the south, and when she visited her cousins in Woodville, Mississippi, she met my grandfather, Edward Grady Partin, a physically large and fit man who was remarkably handsome, with clear skin and rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes and wavy blonde hair with hints of red, and with a charming smile and slick southern accent and sweet words. He was a 26 year old up-and-coming labor union leader who ran unions for both the Woodville sawmill workers and the truckers that delivered raw lumber and carried away cut timber. Almost everyone in Louisiana and Mississippi called him Big Daddy; the moniker stuck, and that’s what all of my cousins and I called him, and how my mind sees his name to this day.
As soon as Mamma Jean met Big Daddy, she wrote to her family that she had found a handsome, hard working man who she believed would make a good father. She said that he adored his mother and took care of her, and had ever since his father had run out on them. She said he was a good man.
They were married six weeks after they met, and they began having children nine months later. Aunt Janice was born first, followed by Cynthia, my dad, Theresa, and then Kieth. They outgrew Woodville, and moved to Baton Rouge, where Big Daddy took over the Teamsters Local #5 and forcibly installed one of Hoffa’s men into power in New Orleans. Hoffa was so impressed with Big Daddy’s tactics and that Big Daddy quickly became one of Hoffa’s most trusted lieutenants. My dad was five years old then, and that’s when Big Daddy stopped going to church with Mamma Jean and took my dad with him to business meetings and ocassional elk hunting trips to Arizona, where I assume he overlapped business with pleasure. I never learned what my dad may have overheard; but, I know he became really good at gutting deer and elk with the big knife Big Daddy gave him.
In 1963 Mamma Jean fled Big Daddy and hid their five children from him and the Teamsters, placing them with different relatives throughout the south in hunting and fishing camps that were relatively undocumented and difficult to find. She had learned that her husband wasn’t the man she had assumed he was, though he had been a good father to all of his children except my dad – my aunts and uncle would say that Big Daddy was “rough” on him without explaining more – and that he had been married with another family when they met, and that she suspected him of being involved with the mafia and President Kennedy’s assassination, though she never had proof and didn’t discuss her suspicions with anyone out of self-doubt and fear for her children’s safety.
In 1964, Big Daddy helped Sydney Simpson, a 22 year old Local #5 Teamster, kidnap his two young children after losing them in a custody trial in the same East Baton Rouge Parish courthouse that my records would begin appearing a few years later; simultaneously, he was charged with manslaughter in Mississippi, and would have faced trials for both federal crimes, but President Kennedy’s little brother, U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, had him freed and provided him immunity and cleared his criminal record in exchange for infiltrating Hoffa’s inner circle and reporting “any attempts at witness intimidation or tampering with the jury,” “anything illegal,” or “anything of interest.” Immediately after Big Daddy’s release from the Baton Rouge jailhouse, the director of the FBI’s Get Hoffa Task Force, Walter Sheridan, located Mamma Jean and her children and offered her a deal: if she remained silent and didn’t divorce Big Daddy until at least after they convicted Hoffa of something, the federal government would buy her a house big enough for her and her five children and pay her a monthly stipend equivalent to what she would have received in alimony. She agreed, and later that year Big Daddy became famous as the surprise witness that sent the world’s most powerful Teamster leader to prison; Jimmy Hoffa was said to be the most famous man in America, after John F. Kennedy. Big Daddy testified that Hoffa had asked him to bribe a juror in a relatively minor case against Hoffa using $20,000 from Hoffa’s petty cash safe, and though there were no witnesses or recordings, Hoffa was sentenced to eight years in prison based on Big Daddy’s testimony and the jury believing my handsome, smiling, charming, grandfather. Immediately after the trial, Big Daddy and his children were showcased across national media, without Mamma Jean but implying they were happy, and Big Daddy became was called an All American hero for helping Bobby Kennedy stop corruption in the Teamsters by putting Hoffa in prison.
J. Edgar Hoover hand picked federal agents to protect the Partin family from inevitable retaliation by the Teamsters and mafia. After several attempts on our family’s lives, Hoover increased the agents. All of that seemed to die down when Hoffa was pardoned by Nixon in 1971, though a few stragglers took pot shots or blew up a house or two, not unlike Japanese WWII soldiers who never learned the war was over and would take pot shots at anyone stumbling onto their remote mountains or islands.
By 1971, my dad was ruggedly handsome and admirably defiant against teachers and anyone in authority, and, as per many young people in 1971, adamantly against the war in Vietnam that had escalated so quickly after Kennedy died. And then his father was suspected of killing a famous actor from about 40 war films, Audie Murphy. My dad may have had a slight nervous breakdown, just like my mom had around the same time, when her boyfriend was shot and killed in Vietnam, and that’s when Edward Grady Partin, Jr., was living with his grandmother, my Grandma Foster.
Within a few weeks of my grandfather being suspected of killing Audie Murphy, my dad met my mother, Wendy Anne Rothdram, at Glen Oaks high school. He was a senior, and she was a junior, and he thought she was fine. She lost her virginity to him in January of 1972, and, as Judge Lottingger wrote in my court records, I was born ten months later.
My dad and Wendy dropped out of Glen Oaks High School and drove an hour away to Mississippi, where state laws didn’t require parental consent for a 17 year old boy and a 16 year old girl to be married, and my dad still had family with room to spare. States recognize each other’s marriage certificates, and they returned to Baton Rouge and lived in one of Big Daddy’s many houses near forested swamps and tree lined murky rivers, where they could hunt with privacy. Big Daddy was known to have houses around the bayous near Baton Rouge and cabins throughout the forests near Flagstaff; and, Big Daddy took care of his family as best he could.
In 1972, around the time of my birth, Big Daddy was arrested again, charged with stealing $450,000 from the Local #5 safe, and the only two witnesses were found beaten and bloody. The safe was recovered in a river near where my my was living, and his arrest made front page headlines. And that was around that time my dad left us and rode to Miami with his friends on motorcyles to travel to some island and buy drugs in bulk, and my mom was left alone with me, without a car or job. As she said and Lottingger documented, she felt emotionally upset, alone, scared, and confused; and she felt she had no where to turn.
I went to bed that night even more sad about my mother’s passing. Empathy is a skill, or a curse, and I had been imagining what life must have been like for my 16 year old mother when she began learning about her Partin family. It probably left her feeling warped, and she fled Baton Rouge to straighten her self out. For the rest of her life, she’d joke that she had been born Wendy Anne Rothdram, WAR, and that marrying Ed Partin WARP’ed her; I probably inherited her sense of humor, centered around puns and coincidences, and I quipped that I had JiP’ed her of her youth. She never denied it.