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.”1

Jimmy Hoffa, 1975

It was a long day of flights from San Diego to Havana. The plane laid over in Houston for an hour, and I was scribbling notes in the sidelines of a book when young man plopped into the seat beside me.

“What are you reading?” he asked.

I looked up slowly and flicked my pen around my thumb, like a magician whirling a wand to distract someone. I placed it on the page I was reading and closed the paperback. I took off my reading glasses and removed my left earbud; it wasn’t playing anything, but I wear earbuds with noise canceling software to soften engine noise and to discourage small talk. I didn’t want him to know I could hear with earbuds in.

“Say again,” I said.

He repeated himself. I tilted the book so he could see the cover. It was “I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran and Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa,” by Charles Brandt.

The man’s gaze skimmed across the words. He looked back up at me and cheerfully asked, “What’s it about?”

He had read the seat numbers before sitting down, so I assumed he was wearing contacts or didn’t need glasses. He was a nondescript 35-or-so year old with a collared polo shirt that was too tight and emphasized a bulbous belly that had likely grown since he bought the shirt; I assumed he chose it either mindlessly or to emphasize his arms, which had hints of muscle tone lurking beneath a few extra pounds, as if he had played some sport in college before getting an office job. His face was slightly tanned, and he had subtle raccoon-eyes that exposed pale white skin. I imagined he wore expensive sunglasses and bright colored polo shirts when golfing with coworkers on weekends.

His smell was unremarkable. He had a clean shaven face but no hint of aftershave, and I sensed neither soap nor body odor. He was young and educated enough to not smoke or spend time around people who did. He was a kid. In the book I was reading when the he interrupted me, I had just read Frank The Irishman’s saying, in his harsh New Jersey hitman voice:

“Kids nowadays don’t know who Hoffa was. I mean, they may know the name, but they don’t know how much power he had.”

I forced a thin smile and rotated the book so the kid could see the back cover.

He glanced down and looked up a fraction of a second later, and said, “Did you go to LSU?”

“I’m not sure why you ask,” I said.

He nodded towards my head and said, “Because your hat says LSU.”

You couldn’t get anything by this kid. I had chosen an older, wool baseball cap for the cooler months that was so faded you could barely make out the letters; instead of purple and gold, the hat was more of a weak brown with a sunburnt yellow L, S, and U. I wore it to shield my thinning hair and relatively new bald spot from overhead air conditioners that seem to target my head like campfire smoke seeks my eyes. I first saw it floating in the ocean off Point Loma the previous May, bobbing in waves almost a football field length from the surf break below remote cliffs at the edge of Point Loma Lazerene University, just after I told myself I needed a hat to shade my sizzling scalp.

It was a gorgeous San Diego day just after Santa Ana winds had blown away all clouds then stopped and left us with blue skies, clean dry air, and glassy water with consistent and mellow waves. It had been an epic surf morning that I wanted to last forever, but my sunscreen was waning and the noontime sun shot rays through cloudless Santa Anna skies directly onto my newly noticed San Diego Friars hair style (our baseball team’s mascot has a hilarious bald spot). I paddled over to retrieve the hat, already respecting the coincidence, and laughed out loud when I saw that it said LSU.

Still smiling and bobbing atop my board, I inspected the inner rim. It was a licensed size 7-1/4, a tad bit smaller than my 7-3/8th head, but beggars shouldn’t be choosers. I donned it and resumed surfing.

I was less surprised to find an LSU hat than you’d imagine. I was surfing a month after the 2018 San Diego LSU Alumni association crawfish boil, the largest crawfish boil outside of Louisiana. It has around 36,000 attendees and is held in the outdoor Qualcomm Stadium, and many attendees wear hats for shade and to show their allegiances. (Many SEC hats are there, though our regional rivalries are set aside and the SEC is unified among legions of Californians.) To feed that many people crawfish, a fleet of 18 wheelers – probably piloted by Teamsters – trucked the mudbugs from Lafayette, also enough for the annual San Diego Gator By The Bay festival held the following two weekends, and any one of the truck drivers or attendees at either event could have dropped the hat overboard on a fishing trip to the kelp beds near Pint Loma, or lost it from a beach along any one of our 78 miles of coastline. It made sense, and I was less surprised to see an LSU hat than I had been to see any hat bobbing beside me when I needed one, especially one close to my size.

An LSU hat wasn’t surprising, but it made the day much more remarkable. I was born in Baton Rouge in 1972, and though I moved almost every year, I was always within dozen miles of LSU’s campus. I was in Baton Rouge around the time of Skip Bertman’s reign over LSU baseball, when we won six of ten College World Series (rivaling California’s Stanford, who won the other four); Shaquelle Oneal’s time as a basketball star before he left for the newly formed Orlando Magic pro team in 1992 (he’d return to LSU to complete his degree as a multi-millionaire pro basketball player); and the world-record setting 1988 50-yard touchdown throw in sudden-death overtime against Auburn in LSU’s Death Valley stadium, when almost 88,000 fans jumped celebrated by jumping up and down to the Tiger marching band beat and created the world’s only recorded man-made earthquake, a 3.8 on the Richter scale (we’re in the Guinness Book of World Records for that).

I left Baton Rouge for the army in 1990, but returned in 1994 and was voted co-captain of the renewed Tiger wrestling program. I was mentored by the legendary 1970’s LSU wrestling coach who had skyrocketed LSU to fourth in the nation, Coach Dale Ketelsen. In 1996, LSU’s newfound program hosted the first college wrestling match in Louisiana since LSU’s team was disbanded in 1979, after the Title IX law enforced equal numbers of male and female athletes in collegiate sports. Our historic match filled the newly built sports complex and was attended by Coach and his wife and adult children; practically every high school wresting coach in Baton Rouge; several LSU cheerleaders; and a bleacher section full of young ladies from the nearby Gold Club, who had worked al night but still showed up that morning because they thought we looked good in the tight purple singlets Coach had magically produced for us.

I left Baton Rouge for the final time when I graduated from LSU in May of 1997 with a summa cum laude degree in civil and environmental engineering – one of only eleven environmental engineering programs in America back then – and a few years later I settled in San Diego, where I led engineering classes and a hands-on innovation center at The University of San Diego’s Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering. With every move, I carried a small and dented cardboard box with my degree and a handful of awards from campus organizations, and I sometimes flew home for crawfish season, music festivals, and, of course, LSU football games in the Death Valley. Since Google launched gmail in 2004, my address has been LSUmagic@gmail.com. I never wore anything indicating the army or USD or my graduate school alma matter, but I adored that hat, and to say I’m an LSU fan is an understatement.

I said, “I grew up in Baton Rouge.”

He asked if I lived in Houston now.

In fairness, Louisiana’s agriculture and tourism based economy meant that a lot of LSU graduates move to either Houston or Atlanta for office jobs. There are so many LSU graduates in Houston that it hosts the second largest crawfish boil outside of Louisiana every spring, and Houston golf courses are packed with people wearing LSU hats. I’m sure he was just being friendly in his own way. But, I suspected that no matter what I answered, he’d begin asking where I lived, where I was going, or what I did for a living; or, even worse, he’d ask about my family.

I said I was focused on reading and didn’t want to talk.

He shrugged, adjusted the overhead air away from him and inadvertently towards my head, pulled out his smart phone, and busied himself by scrolling Facebook. I put the earbud back in and returned to reading and scribbling notes. The plane took off, and he paid the WiFi upcharge and scrolled through his phone the rest of the flight without interrupting me again.

It was Friday afternoon, 01 March 2019. I was on my first day of a 30 day sabbatical to research my grandfather’s role in President Kennedy’s assassination on another Friday afternoon almost 60 years prior, at an estimated 12:33pm on 22 November 1963. My grandfather was Edward Grady Partin Senior, though we called him Big Daddy. My father was Edward Grady Partin Junior. I’m Jason Ian Partin; my mother had the grace and foresight to not name me Edward Grady Partin III.

Big Daddy was the Baton Rouge Teamster leader who infiltrated Hoffa’s inner circle and sent Hoffa to prison on behalf of the president’s little brother, US Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, who freed Big Daddy from prison and put my family into a position of privilege in exchange for Big Daddy’s testimony. Our family was famous in the 60’s and 70’s, when America followed Hoffa’s trials daily and his 1975 disappearance fueled already flaming conspiracy theories about the CIA and FBI’s involvement in Kennedy’s assassination. I’ve had an on-and-off hobby of solving Kennedy’s assassination since.

To enter Cuba legally, I was using an entrepreneurship visa granted by the Obama administration. Cuba had been under an American embargo since Kennedy enacted it in 1961, just before the Bay of Pigs invasion, a year before Bobby pulled my grandfather out of jail to infiltrate Hoffa’s inner circle. President Trump’s administration was about to eliminate Obama’s entrepreneurship loophole due to opposing philosophies, but both kept the final part of the 1979 JFK Assassination report classified for reasons I don’t understand. I was curious if I could uncover more before the final part was released, if any president finally does.2

I finished reading The Irishman somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico. There wasn’t much to look at out our right hand side of the plane other than clouds and an occasional glimpse of the ocean, so I reread my scribbles. The plane crossed over the Florida panhandle, and I put the book away and watched patches of ground peek between clouds, and let what I read digest and link with what I read in other books over the decades and stories I overheard when I was a kid. The in-air Wifi worked as effectively as the overhead air conditioning, and it was a blissfully silent hour.

We landed in Fort Lauderdale an hour later. My row stood up and gathered our baggage from the overhead bins. When the airplane doors finally opened, the man beside me moved forward and looked over his shoulder and cheerfully said, “have a nice vacation.” I imagined he had golf clubs waiting in checked bags, and was meeting coworkers in Fort Lauderdale. I hoped he wore sunscreen and watched what he put into that bulbous belly. I nodded and said, “You, too.”

I hadn’t checked anything, so I carried my small personal items backpack and rolled up yoga mat, and wore a larger carryon backpack with a pair of squat scuba fins strapped in the outside flap. I left the airliner and walked through the Fort Lauderdale terminal to a smaller plane bound for Havana.

About an hour and a half later, I stepped off the plane and on onto the tarmac in Havana, finally in Cuba after almost 25 years of thinking about it.

Go to The Table of Contents

Edward Grady Partin and James Jimmy Hoffa
Life Magazine, 1964
Edward Partin and Aunt Janice
Big Daddy and Aunt Janice in Time Magazine, 1964, showing Big Daddy as a family man and all-American hero who saved Bobby Kennedy’s life and stop Hoffa’s Teamster corruption, and that Big Daddy had only been in jail for “a minor domestic problem.”


  1. The “minor domestic problem” was a reoccurring point in Hoffa’s defense strategy after my grandfather testified against him. At the time, only ten months after President Kennedy’s assassination, all of America was watching the trial and the courtroom was packed with Hoffa’s inner circle, FBI agents and federal marshals, and mafia hitmen; yet Hoffa felt confident. But, when the prosecuting team called their surprise witness and Big Daddy stood up, Hoffa exclaimed, “Oh God, it’s Partin” loudly enoug for the jury to hear him and convict Hoffa solely based on Big Daddy’s testimony.

    For the next 13 years of his life Hoffa, quoted Walter and Bobby’s lawyers by using “rabbit ears” to emphasize my grandfather’s “minor domestic problem.” In his second co-writen autobiography, “Hoffa: The Real Story,” published by Stein and Day about a month before he vanished in 1975, Hoffa had this to say about my grandfather and his testimony:

    Let’s take a look at this “all-American boy” and his record, which was carefully kept from the jury by Judge Wilson and the government.
    In December, 1943, he was arrested in the state of Washington for breaking and entering. Pleading guildy, he was senteneded to fifteen years in the state penitentiary, from which he escaped twice.

    Freed, he joined the Marine Corps and was dishonorably discharged. He had been accused of raping a young black girl.

    Becoming head of the Teamster local in Baton Rouge, he was charged by certain members with embezzling $1600 in union funds and he had been indicted on thirteen counts of falsifying records and thirteen counts of embezzlement.

    While out on fifty thougsand dollars’ bond, he had been indicted in Alamama in Septermber of 1962 on charges of first-degree manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident.

    One day beofe the Alambama incictment, he surrendered on September 25th, 1962, to Louisiana authorities on a kidnaping charge, the “minor domestic problem” to which Life magazine had referred. He had assisted a friend in snatching the friend’s two small children from the friend’s wife, who had leagal custody of the children.”

    Walter Sheridan, who spent a decade heading the FBI’s Get Hoffa Task Force under Bobby Kennedy and John F. Kennedy before that, couldn’t deny the facts presented by Hoffa. In his 1972 Opus, “The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa,” published by Saturday Evening Press, Walter addressed the growing public realization that the star witness against Hoffa was controversial by admitting:

    “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.

    Small discrepancies between Walter and Hoffa’s summaries are part of my family’s stories. For example, two weeks after enlisting in the Marines, a 17 year old Edward Grady Partin who would eventually become Bug Daddy, punched out his commanding officer and stole a watch from the unconscious captain’s arm. It makes sense that the two teams of Hoffa and Walter would have different summaries of that event, especially because military records aren’t always accurate and many witnesses have mistaken memories.The discrepancy about the watch was probably due to the Marine captain reporting his watch stolen rather than admitting he was punched out by a 17 year old recruit.

    From what I was told by my uncle Doug in front of Big Daddy, who didn’t deny anything, was that Big Daddy joined the Marines during WWII as a plea bargain in lieu of going to jail for stealing all the guns in Woodville, Mississippi. He and Doug, who was 12 years old at the time, broke into the Woodville Sears and Roebuck sporting goods store and carried out all the guns in a few arm fulls, with Big Daddy heaving Doug and the guns up through a hole in the roof with a rope Big Daddy had tied around Doug’s waist. They sold the guns in New Orleans and used the proceeds to buy motorcycles, but had kept a few guns in Grandma Foster’s house and were eventually caught and found guilty. It was during WWII, and the judge said Big Daddy wouldn’t go to jail if he agreed to join the Marines. Big Daddy agreed, and asked for the deal in writing. Two weeks later, after having joined the Marines and honored his contract, he punched his commanding officer in the face and stole his watch on impulse. Big Daddy was dishonorably discharged and back in Woodville soon after, a free man who had kept his end of the plea bargain by joining the Marines – he had noticed that his contract didn’t stipulate remaining in, so of course he signed it.

    The trial for raping a girl was not the reason for a plea bargain. Big Daddy was found not guilty. Woodville was, and is, a small town, and everyone knew Big Daddy and I can’t imagine a jury of his peers voting to put him in jail. According to Doug, and not denied by Big Daddy, my grandfather was found not guilty of raping that poor little girl because one juror said, “No white man deserves to go to jail for anything he did to a black girl.”

    In the big picture, rather than analyze each detail, it’s safe to assume that Big Daddy wasn’t an all-American hero to everyone.

    As early as 1966, Chief Justice Earl Warren tried to dispel that myth in the supreme court case that centered around my grandfather’s testimony, Hoffa vs The United States. Warren was already famous for cases such as Roe vs Wade, Brown vs The Board of Education, the case that gave us the Miranda Rights, and, of course, the 1964 Warren Report hastily assembled and mistakenly claiming that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot and killed President John F. Kennedy, and that Jack Ruby acted alone when he shot and killed Oswald two days later. Like Hoffa’s 1964 trial, Hoffa vs The United States was followed by practically every American, and most people were surprised when Warren was the only judge to dissent against Big Daddy’s testimony, which ended Hoffa’s appeals and began his prison sentence. Warren wrote a multi-page missive railing against Big Daddy, permanently attached to Hoffa vs The United States for posterity to ponder, and here’s a part of it:

    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.

    In 1966, after loosing appeals all the way to the US supreme court, Jimmy Hoffa was sentenced to eight years in prison based, according to Chief Justice Earl Warren, almost exclusively on my grandfather’s word of honor, a man so close to Hoffa that he had trusted his life to him. To say Hoffa was pissed off is probably an understatement. He went to prison in 1966, and had a long time to ruminate about it.

    To this day, parts of the congressional JFK and Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination Report remain classified, and Big Daddy’s records continue to “vanish into thin air.” I can’t imagine what Hoffa would have to say about that, but I’m sure it would be interesting to read. ↩︎
  2. As of this writing, President Joe Biden has promised to release the final part of the 1979 JFK and Martin Luther King Junior Assassination Report, though I’ve heard similar promises before. I don’t know what presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama, Trump, and Biden have seen that they want to keep secret, but I’m sure that, like anything Hoffa would have to say now, it would be an interesting read. ↩︎