“And Kennedy made him an All American hero?” Carleton summarized, “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.”Neighbor Carleton
Carleton was a visual editor for small films and local businesses advertising on the internet, and of course had already seen Scorsese’s The Irishman in the big theater downtown. My grandfather had a small part in it as the surprise witness who sent Hoffa to prison, but Scorsese had skipped over details to squeeze the story into theaters. Carleton had borrowed my copy of The Irishman and had read my summary of Big Daddy that I had posted on my blog earlier that day, and, because Carleton has a flexible gig schedule, he often shared happy hour with Cranky Ken, too, and knew everything Ken had to say about Hoffa and Kennedy and my grandfather. We were a little high, and were being very chatty.
“Why did Scorcese omit the chapter about your grandfather and Nixon and…,” he glanced down at the page he had open, “Audie Murphy?”
He asked that redundantly, as if to himself. As usual when we’re a little high on the balcony, we rarely answer each other’s questions.
“I think it’s remarkable that in almost fifty years, I’ve never heard my dad say anything against his father,” I said. “I mean, if you want to honor your father, what better way to start than by not saying anything judgemental about them. We never know a person’s back story. My grandfather was not a good person, by anyone’s definition; well, except perhaps a few of.my aunts. But, maybe Hitler had people who loved him. It’s remarkable that my father never said anything bad about Big Daddy. Even after he killed Audie Murphy.”
I doubt my grandfather killed Audie Murphy, though Doug and more than a few conspiracy magazines swear he did. But, when I’m a little high with people I trust, my tongue gets a little loose, and my mind weaves in and out of what I know to be true today and what I believed to be true a long time ago. When I was a kid and making choices in life, I assumed my grandfather had killed America’s greatest war hero and movie star, Audie Murphy. That fact may lead to why I never trusted my grandfather. But, it doesn’t explain why he fooled everyone else, ranging from Jimmy Hoffa to Walter Sheridan to the U.S. Supreme Court to my Mamma Jean to almost every person I ever knew who saw him or heard his voice.
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. His media exposure fluctuated based on the whims of reporters and the FBI, but was mentioned around key dates relevant to his story:
- The 888 page Warren Report on President Kennedy’s assassination in 1964
- Multiple monthly Life Magazine monthly feature investigations on the Kennedy assassination and the growing threat of organized crime, aka the mafia, throughout the mid to late 1960’s (my dad and his siblings were part of the focus on Big Daddy in 1964, shared with the newly appointed first family of President Johnsons)
- Several highly publicized Teachers strikes
- New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison’s nationally followed trial against Clay Shaw, the only trial for someone charged in President Kennedy’s assassination in 1967
- Presidential candidate General Bobby Kennedy’s assassination in 1968
- Jimmy Hoffa’s final appeal to the Supreme Court and imprisonment in 1968
- President Nixon’s election after Hoffa endorsed him from prison in 1971
- National hero Audie Murphy’s death in 1971
- Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance in 1975
- Although classified until 1992, the 1976 formation on the Congressional Committee and their collection of files on JFK after the Warren Report
In addition to state and national media coverage around key dates, Edward Partin’s Name name took up the vast majority of references in all the books about Hoffa that had already been published. And Chief Justice Earl Warren, a forty year veteran of the Supreme Court, had expounded on the threat of Ed Partin to the justice system in 1964; Louisiana Governor McKiethen railed against Ed Partin “and his ganster hoodlums” in almost every weekly newspaper in New Orleans and Baton Rouge throughout the 60’s and 70’s, perplexed at why Bobby Kennedy was protecting him. And of course there were the LSU Tiger football players, the Titans and Giants and Gods of Baton Rouge who were recognized everywhere, especially Billy Cannon after his Heismann Trophy award, and Billy and a small army of Tiger Football palyers had inexplicably become my grandfather’s enteroge and followed him everywhere in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s; and the media highlighted that, too, as well as the Hollywood movies, racecar stadiums, and chemical plants that Ed Partin brought to Louisiana. He was a state version of Jimmy Hoffa, and a big, handsome, charming man that everyone called Big Daddy.
Less is written about Edward Grady Partin Junior.
My dad was born in 1954 as the third of five children to Norma Jean Partin and Edward Grady Partin. 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.
Men would recall his brute force, and that’s well documented in all books about Hoffa and in the movies that portray him. He had briefly been a marine during WWII and had boxed several semi professional matches, and part of his calm demeanor came from his confidence that he could take care of a room full of men with his bare hands, and if he needed more than his hands he always carried a folding knife he used for elk hunting in Flagstaff. He knew how to use a knife, and he often went hunting in the woods of Mississippi and the bayous of Louisiana.
Everyone said he was charming. In the chapter about him in Hoffa’s 1975 book, Hoffa begins the chapter about Ed Partin by saying, “Edward Partin was a big, rough man who could charm a snake off a rock.” Mamma jean had thought that too, and she was smitten immediately when she met him that summer of 1953.
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, a decision that would soon cost Hoffa his presidency and many years of his life, and then his life; if only by cause and effect of many choices his in life, and trusting Big Daddy was just one of them.
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.
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.”
Many crimes were omitted from Walter’s book and were being removed from court houses across America. But, even then, and with a quick search on today’s internet, you could see that he had been, and probably still was, a rapist, murderer, thief, lier, adulturer, bearer of false witness (Hoffa even knew that), who had begun skipping church on Sundays. But, in fairness, he loved and honored his momma, and honor, my great Grandma Foster, and I never heard him say anything bad about his father, Grady Partin, which is probably why no one put him to death for ignoring what the bible says about honoring your mother and father.
Chief Justice Earl Warren was perplexed by my grandfather. More specifically, he was the only one of nine judges critical of my grandfather’s character, and the only one to dissent against Partin’s testimony in Hoffa vs. the United States.
By then Warren was a household name, a respected bipartisan Supreme Court judge with almost a 40 year history, having overseen landmark cases such as Roe vs Wade, Brown vs the Board of Education, and the case that enforced Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent; and, most notably, the 888 page Warren Report on President Kennedy’s assassination that the world had waited for and famously but inaccurately concluded that “Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot and killed President John F. Kennedy.” Of all people, Warren should have had access to all of the facts about my family, yet he was so confused by the situation surrounding Big Daddy and wrote a three page missive of this thought process to forever be preserved in Hoffa vs. The United States for posterity to ponder, not unlike Judge Lottingger had partially documented my family history in Partin vs. Partin for posterity, too.
“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,”
“… 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.”
Warren may have known of a few payments to Mamma Jean, but all of us knew about the home and many more payments; those are some of the details of my family history that I know to be true but are undocumented. But, per Mamma Jean’s agreement, no one in my family had ever shared that information publicly until now. Even with only a few payments offered, technically the Partin family is considered America’s first ‘paid informants,’ different than a witness program in which identities are hidden, in that we were paid before a testimony and then we weren’t hidden and our name was known publicly, though the details remained classified or hidden. As I mentioned, my family has a long history of keeping secrets, and we’re pretty good at it.
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 and Warren’s 1966 missive, where he wrote:
“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.”
Look! and Life magazines focused their monthly investigative issues on Big Daddy and Momma Jean and my dad and his siblings, showcasing them as an All American family and omitting their hiding from the FBI, and disproving claims from Hoffa’s lawyers that Big Daddy had been a criminal; they whitewashed his 1940’s rape of a black girl in Mississippi and his dishonorable discharge after only two weeks in the marines.
It was no secret who Big Daddy really was to people who looked, and I assume the United States Supreme Court looked. Yet, and also despite Warren’s protests, two judges abstained and six voted to accept Big Daddy’s testimony, and Warren’s single vote didn’t matter, the opposite effect of the one juror’s vote that had kept Big Daddy from being convicted of rape, and Hoffa went to prison based on Big Daddy’s word.
My family has remained silent for decades. Now that you know Big Daddy’s part in history, or at least that part, it may be easier to imagine what my 17 year old dad was going through. I’m biased, because I knew all of the people involved, but the simple internet search on my dad’s name told me enough to know that any kid being abandoned must be terrifying, and that sometimes you have to become that which you loath to escape a rough situation, and you become angry and intense because that’s how you learn to take care of things. And I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have Big Daddy be ‘rough’ on anyone if he were upset; my grandfather’s nice side was rough enough, and if there’s any doubt about that, just ask the ruthless Teamster president, Jimmy Hoffa, what he thought about Big Daddy.
Carleton and I chatted a bit about our fathers, and about the beer we were sipping, and lots of other things. It was a good day.