My grandfather, Edward Grady Partin, was a big man with a small part in history.
Jimmy Hoffa said, “Edward Grady Partin was a big rough man who could charm a snake off a rock,’ and that’s the most concise and accurate description of Big Daddy I’ve ever heard. Ed Partin was physically large and extremely handsome, and though he smiled and was charming, you sensed he was a rough man and that you shouldn’t cross him. He was over 6’3” tall and about 250 pounds; he boxed when younger, and was a dishonorably discharged marine because he punched his commanding officer instead of fighting in WWII. But, in fairness, he had only joined the marines in lieu of going to jail for stealing all the guns in Woodville, Mississippi, where he was born and, after being discharged from the marines, had taken over the Woodville sawmill union before moving to Baton Rouge and running Teamsters Local #5 while Jimmy Hoffa was president of The International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Big Daddy ran the Louisiana Teamsters for 30 years, and men all over the country either respected him or knew to avoid him. I heard women swooned over him. His daughters adored him, like most children I knew, because he would kneel down and smile and speak at their level in his slow, southern drawl. When he spoke, everything else disappeared, and people listened. He was generous, dolling out gifts of cars and houses to family, and handing cash to Teamsters, teachers, laborers, and anyone forgoing their salary to walk a picket line, whether or not they were union members. Teamsters loved him.
LSU football players adored him and ensured he had the best seats for football games; they signed their 1954 national championship football and gave it to him, and a Heizmann Trophy winner was one of his bodyguards.
He owned a NASCAR racetrack, Pelican International Speedway, and drivers and business agents vied for his attention. Celebrities and some politicians were his friends; and, as Teamster president near the port of New Orleans, he did business with Cuban president Fidel Castro and New Orleans mafia boss Carlos Marcello, among others, and he negotiated deals with at least two American presidents that I know of. Newspapers printed that if he had a college degree he’d be elected governor, but he had dropped out of Woodville High School in Woodville at age 17, shortly before being arrested for the first time.
I could go on, but to explain Big Daddy from my perspective I’d like to begin with Jimmy Hoffa.
For decades, it was said that Jimmy Hoffa was the most famous man in America not a Kennedy. He was president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, laborers who handled anything with wheels. They are perhaps the oldest example of skilled labor in human history; at one point, someone put four wheels on a cart and offered to carry another person’s fruit in exchange for some of it. Sure, a man can by handy with a knife or axe, but unless you wanted him to kill or cut down a tree for you, the first practical combination of man and machine was probably a Teamster. And, inevitably when humans are involved, everything evolved into a big organization led by a leader you either liked or disliked; either way, Jimmy was famous and The International Brotherhood of Teamsters was a national phenomenon.
By 1957, almost every working class family in America knew at least one Teamster. There were 2.7 million Teamsters, a remarkable number considering there were only 170 million men, women, and children in America then. Every product on every shelf was delivered by a Teamster, driven by trucks roaming the newly formed American interstate system, carrying stuff from ports that connected us to the rest of the world. And they transported American made products from factories and farms to those ports for export to the world. Jimmy could slam the American economy to a halt by snapping his fingers, if that’s what he wanted.
He was not a big man, only 5’6”, but he was fierce and knew how to handle himself in dangerous situations. He surrounded himself with big, rough Teamsters that he called his lieutenants. He used his power and his lieutenants’ intimidation to fight for worker’s rights. His Teamsters were fiercely loyal to him, and his lieutenants would kill for him.
Teamsters paid between $3 and $12 per month for union dues. Three million union members times a few dollars is a lot of money every month, especially in 1957, and that money was unregulated, free flowing cash. Jimmy funded Hollywood films with it, and he loaned millions of dollars from the Teamster’s pension to mafia godfathers, and they used it to build Las Vegas casinos and hotels. In return, Teamsters were paid handsomely to transport Hollywood filming equipment and house movie stars in mobile trailers on film sets; and to transport construction materials to Las Vegas and presumably any other goods or services the mafia wanted from international ports.
If you rewatch movies filmed in America from the 1950’s to 1990’s and wait through the credits, the final screen is usually dominated by the Teamsters logo, two horse heads and a ship’s steering wheel. In the classic mafia themed film The Godfather, mafia hitmen placed a severed horse head in a Hollywood producer’s bed as a warning. Jimmy Hoffa was as subtle as a severed horse head left in your bed. His actions were brash but transparent, and he was famous for fiery fits of rage whenever someone crossed him. He was an intense and focused man, by almost anyone’s definition, and a self made, working class hero in America.
He was seen as superhuman. He was formidable, invincible against crime bosses and the FBI and even the Kennedys. In a time when Americans adored WWII heroes, he was an atypical and legendary leader, not because of a chest full of medals, but because of his intellect, will power, and unabashed use of brute force in the face of authority.
Jimmy Hoffa was a household name in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and so were the Kennedys. Practically speaking, they were, and are, a family of American aristocrats. The Kennedy brothers, Johny, Bobby, and Teddie, had been groomed as future presidents all their lives, and America followed their trajectory daily. When Johny beat Nixon and became president, grandmothers across the country celebrated; I heard he made ladies swoon. President Kennedy appointed his little brother, Harvard lawyer Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, to the highest role in the federal government responsible for prosecuting crime, the U.S. Attorney General, and he tasked Bobby with one thing that sounded like two only because they were linked so closely: Take down Jimmy and organized crime. Johny was focused on the escalating Cold War with the Soviet Union and Cuba, the threat of nuclear missiles off our shore, deescalating the Vietnam conflict, and sending a man to the moon. He had a lot going on, and he had a lot of resources at his disposal.
Bobby dove into his role with all of the resources Johny could provide. He formed a posse of FBI agents led by Walter Sheridan and overseen by J. Edgar Hoover himself, and their goal was unambiguous; they were The Get Hoffa Task Force. They indicted Jimmy five times over seven years, and he won every trial. They also pursued him for minor infarctions, seemingly insignificant yet still prosecuted by the most apt federal team in recent history. They made Jimmy’s life miserable. In return, he ranted against them publicly. The American media loved it, and reported on their seemingly mutual hatred daily, and they even reported the extreme amounts of taxpayer money Bobby’s Get Hoffa Task Force spent on trivial crimes that were only speculation at best.
At times, the feud between the public men sounded more like schoolyard taunts than world leaders debating. Jimmy would call Bobby a “spoiled brat,” and Bobby would tell reporters Jimmy was “a snot nosed piece of shit.” Their words weren’t the only thing; they radiated hatred for each other with their tones, countenance, and being. Every news conference with either man became a rant against each other. It wasn’t media showmanship, it was unabashed, a hatred so real and so deep it made the famous men seem human, irrational and attached to emotions. People called it “The Blood Feud,” and the moniker stuck as a way to describe the visceral hatred everyone sensed between Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa.
According to FBI reports in the JFK Assassination Report, Jimmy and Big Daddy plotted to kill Bobby in 1962. The first plan was to use plastic explosives. Big Daddy was to obtain the explosives using his connections with Carlos and Fidel, both of whom were transparently disdainful of Johny; at the time, American CIA assassination attempts against Fidel were widely known. No one was shy about killing back then, but Big Daddy claimed he talked Jimmy out of tossing explosives into Bobby’s home because Bobby’s kids could be there, and killing children was a line he would not cross. Their second plan, according to the report, was to use a sniper rifle equipped with a scope and shoot Bobby as he rode through a southern town in his convertible; and if they did that, they’d have to recruit a shooter and ensure he couldn’t be traced to the Teamsters.
One year later, on November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed as he rode through Dallas in his convertible. The presumed shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a former marine with a ling history of mental illness. He was born and had lived in New Orleans, an hour away from Big Daddy, and had trained in the civil air force a few miles from my childhood home in Baton Rouge, and I’ve always thought that was remarkable.
Oswald was arrested within a hour of Kennedy being shot, and his rifle was discovered in the 6th floor of a downtown Dallas building: a WWII surplus Italian 6.5mm carbine that he had retrofitted with a scope. He was read his Miranda Rights and said on record that he was “a patsy,” a part of a bigger plot. But he wasn’t interrogated and he didn’t testify, because he was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby. He walked up to Lee, who was handcuffed and surrounded by officers in the Dallas police station, and shot him in the belly with a Colt Cobra .38 special snub nosed “detective gun” on live television, and 110 million people watched Jack commit murder. He wasn’t subtle.
Jack was a Dallas nightclub owner and low-level mafia strongman, and before that he was the business agent for a Dallas dump truck company that had been absorbed by the Teamsters. He was an air force veteran, and had a long history of mental illness and run ins with the Dallas police. He would die in prison two years later; of all his final words reported, I still recall, “No one will ever know my part in history.”
Kennedy’s assassination was a defining moment for the world, and because America doesn’t try deceased people, the public relied on a committee formed by newly appointed president, former Vice-President Johnson, and overseen by the highest ranking judge in America, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Earl Warren. Earl was already famous for presiding over controversial cases and had a 35 year unblemished history in prosecution before being appointed to the Supreme Court for life. Coincidentally, he presided over the case that led to the Miranda Rights, that anything Lee or Jack said after being arrested could and would be used against them. He led the committee, and they analyzed the facts available to them and released the 888 page Warren Report ten months later, and it concluded that “Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot and killed John F. Kennedy.”
Publicly, Hoover and Bobby supported the Warren Report, but, privately, I presume, they suspected Jimmy, Carlos, and one other guy whose name I can never remember. The full 1962 report of Jimmy and Big Daddy remained classified, presumably even to Earl.
National media soon learned of the first part of the report, when two of the most famous and nationally distributed magazines of the time, Look and Life, published detailed accounts of Big Daddy and our family, whitewashing his long list of crimes and atrocities. The media focused on the newly released information from Hoover, that the FBI had been investigating Jimmy for plotting to kill Bobby, and they said Partin helped prevent it. He was hailed a hero.
Big Daddy was already somewhat famous by then. He had been the surprise witness that sent Jimmy to prison for jury tampering, the first victory of Bobby’s task force. Court records say that when the Get Hoffa Task Force called their key witness and Big Daddy stood up, the formidable Jimmy deflated and said, succinctly, “My God, it’s Partin.” Some of Jimmy’s lieutenants made hand signals implying that Partin would die; later, in Life magazine, Big Daddy told America that he responded to them by remaining silent and simply smiling. He seemed to embrace the risk. Walter told Life that in his thirty years of protecting surprise witnesses, all except Ed Partin had wanted their identity protected, but, for some unknown reason, my grandfather wanted the publicity and accepted the risks.
The timing of media attention after Jimmy’s trial was crucial, because most rational people who knew the facts assumed Big Daddy had given false witness and sent Jimmy to prison for something he didn’t do. The charge, bribing a juror, was based solely on Big Daddys sworn testimony. He said Jimmy had asked him to give a juror $20,000; but no money exchanged hands, and the potential juror was never aware, and, from my perspective, no crime occurred. But, a new jury believed Big Daddy and found Jimmy guilty of attempting to bribe a former juror, and the judge sentenced him to 11 years in prison. People, even jurors in a presumably blind system of justice, believed Big Daddy more than the most famous man in America and his team of lawyers. A few weeks later, thanks to media, almost everyone in America was convinced he was a patriot and had risked his life to save Bobby and put Jimmy in jail.
He was that charming.
Jimmy denied everything in the report and fought Big Daddy’s testimony with his legendary rage and resources. His extensive legal team brought his appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, one of only a handful of thousands of cases vying for an appeal each year, and his appeal was overseen by, coincidentally, Earl Warren.
In Hoffa vs The United States, Earl was the only one of nine judges to vote against accepting Big Daddy’s testimony. The Get Hoffa Force won; but, ironically, their leader, Bobby Kennedy, didn’t see that day because he was shot and killed in 1968, around the time Martin Luther King and Malcom X were shot and killed. It was a time for assassinations in America. Big Daddy was like a lingering bit of Bobby, a last effort to get Jimmy that reached from beyond the grave in the form of one man’s word against another, and Bobby won.
Earl didn’t get to discuss his concerns with Bobby, and he was discrete in challenging tje former Attorney General’s methods, but he documented his objections for posterity in a three page missive attached to Hoffa vs The United States, a frequently cited court precedent, saying that allowing Big Daddy’s testimony was an affront on the American justice system and a dangerous precedent to set before lower courts. Earl was not a haplessly opinionated man. He presented facts and examples, but he was unsubtle in what he believed. He said my grandfather was “a jailbird, languishing in a Baton Rouge jail cell,” with “every incentive to lie,” before Bobby’s task force removed him from jail. Earl questioned why Big Daddy’s many federal and state crimes seemed to be disappearing, and asked why the federal government had been paying my grandmother a monthly salary, saying that having “paid informants” as a precedent cleared the way for lower courts to allow the same; it seemed unethical. He knew of the Blood Feud, and he stopped short of questioning Bobby’s integrity, but he questioned his fellow judges judgement, emphasizing that Big Daddy’s latest crimes included, ironically, lying to a jury.
His missive is still there, a permanent precedent for posterity to ponder, and the Partin family became a footnote in history, America’s first paid informants, and Ed Partin was ostensibly the patriot who helped Bobby send Jimmy to prison.
Earl didn’t indicate he had read the full FBI report about two plots to kill Bobby, and surely he hadn’t noticed the coincidence of their plot in his Warren Report investigation, and its omission may be the most remarkable part in Hoffa vs The United States and my family history.
Big Daddy returned to Baton Rouge and went back to business. Walter and a few stragglers from The Get Hoffa Task Force checked in occasionally, and at one point after one of our houses was blown up and Big Daddy was shot in the belly and a shotgun blast missed some of the family, Walter increased the number of federal marshals protecting the Lartins. But, everyone joked that Big Daddy didn’t need protection, he just enjoyed having an entourage. Local newspapers liked it, too, and showed him with his federal marshals and a few big LSU football players he hired as bodyguards. He became, practically speaking, a small version of Jimmy Hoffa, operating regionally instead of nationally.
Jimmy was released from prison early, and immediately and famously disappeared in the summer of 1975. Just before he vanished, he authorized his autobiography, and after six yeas in a federal prison cell knowing Big Daddy perjured to save himself and sent Jimmy to prison unjustly, he still kept saying how big and rough and charming Big Daddy was.
It seems everyone swooned for Big Daddy, except for Earl Warren and a few Louisiana governors, and he could do no wrong. But, after Jimmy disappeared, my family lost their special status and Big Daddy was arrested for stealing $450,000 from a Teamster safe. The safe was discovered at the bottom of a murky Baton Rouge river, empty and without fingerprints, and the only two witnesses were beaten so badly that one died in the hospital. The money was never found, and neither witness testified or offered a statement before they died, yet Big Daddy was still found guilty for the first time in his life, and the judge sentenced him to eleven years im federal prison, coincidentally the same as Jimmy’s original sentence.
He appealed for a few years and lost, and was sent to prison in 1980. He was released in 1986 due to declining health, and died peacefully in 1990. National reporters traveled to Baton Rouge for his funeral, and the New York Times best team of investigative reporters published this:
Edward Grady Partin, a teamsters’ union leader whose testimony helped convict James R. Hoffa, the former president of the union, died Sunday at a nursing home here. Mr. Partin, who was 66 years old, suffered from heart disease and diabetes.
He helped Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy convict Mr. Hoffa of jury tampering in 1964. Mr. Partin, a close associate of Mr. Hoffa’s, testified that the teamster president had offered him $20,000 to fix the jury at Mr. Hoffa’s trial in 1962 on charges of taking kickbacks from a trucking company. That trial ended in a hung jury.
Mr. Hoffa went to prison after the jury-tampering conviction. James Neal, a prosecutor in the jury-tampering trial in Chattanooga, Tenn., said that when Mr. Partin walked into the courtroom Mr. Hoffa said, ”My God, it’s Partin.”
The Federal Government later spent 11 years prosecuting Mr. Partin on antitrust and extortion charges in connection with labor troubles in the Baton Rouge area in the late 1960’s. He was convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice by hiding witnesses and arranging for perjured testimony in March 1979. An earlier trial in Butte, Mont., ended without a verdict.
Mr. Partin went to prison in 1980, and was released to a halfway house in 1986. While in prison he pleaded no contest to charges of conspiracy, racketeering and embezzling $450,000 in union money. At one time union members voted to continue paying Mr. Partin’s salary while he was in prison. He was removed from office in 1981.
Survivors include his mother, two brothers, a sister, five daughters, two sons, two brothers and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I always appreciated a nuance in that New York Times summary, that the Teamsters voted to keep paying Big Daddy while he was in prison for stealing Teamster money and after he had sent the beloved national Teamster president to prison. I can’t emphasize this enough to anyone who hadn’t met Big Daddy: he was very, very charming. I don’t know if it’s genetic.
The 1962 report on Big Daddy and Hoffa must have still been classified in 1990, because even the New York Times and conspiracy assassination theorists hadn’t reported it. I first learned of it after President Bill Clinton released 60% of the classified JFK Assassination Report in 1992; it was dated from 1979 and had fifteen more years of research since the 1964 Warren Report, plus all new or disproven evidence from 1979 to 1992. The committee ranged from senators to FBI agents to the former editor of Life magazine, and, based on all the evidence, they unequivocally revoked the Warren Report and said that President John F. Kennedy was likely killed as part of a bigger plot, and that the three primary suspects were Jimmy, Carlos, and that third guy I still can’t remember. Jimmy had famously disappeared in 1975 and was been pronounced dead in 1979, therefore he couldn’t comment on the 1979 JFK Assassination Report, and Big Daddy wasn’t alive to discuss the 1992 release.
In 2021, James Hoffa Junior is the national Teamster president and my family has been the Louisiana Teamster leaders since 1981, when Big Daddy stopped getting paid while in prison. My Uncle Keith, Big Daddy’s youngest son and the biggest, roughest, nicest Partin I know, is the current Teamsters #5 president. He was elected after Big Daddy’s little brother, Uncle Doug, was elected in 1981. Doug had served 30 years before retiring, and had been by Big Daddy’s side since he was a little boy and was coerced into breaking into a Woodville Sears and Roebuck store and absconding with all the hunting rifles. Doug passed away in 2020, peacefully, in a veterans home and in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic. I didn’t get to see him and ask his approval to write about our family; But, he said all he had to say in his 2013 autobiography “From my Brother’s Shadow: Teamster Douglas Wesley Partin tells his side of the story.” In his book, he says what most of us and Earl Warren already knew, that Big Daddy lied to get out of jail and sent Jimmy to prison unjustly; the supreme court verdict still stands, and it’s up to posterity to settle that. Like Earl, he never indicates that he knew about the 1962 report, and I never heard James Jr. mention it.
Kieth gave me his blessing to write anything. His mother, my Mamma Jean Partin, never lied, and on her deathbed she wrote all of us a letter, the beginning of an unfinished memoir, and said that she believed Big Daddy was somehow involved in President Kennedy’s assassination. All of my aunts support anything I write, and for the final few weeks of Big Daddy’s we all recall the daily phone calls from Walter and other retired members of The Get Hoffa Task Force, and we told them his final words, “No one will ever know my part in history,” and that pun has bounced around my mind since.
Since 1979, every president has been able to review the JFK Assassination Report and choose which parts are released into the National Archives, now online at Archives.gov, and which parts remain classified. President Joe Biden said he’ll release the final part at the end of his first term in 2024. I don’t know what he saw in it that should wait, nor do I know what president’s Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama, and Trump saw in a now 60 year old report that they kept secret, but I may learn more in 2024.
I’m Jason Partin, one of Ed Partin’s grandchildren; Ed Partin Junior is my dad. Any further information on Big Daddy was removed from the Baton Rouge police station in 2004 by men claiming to be federal agents. I don’t know much more about Kennedy’s death and Hoffa’s disappearance than I already shared; nor do I know what’s in the final bit of the JFK Assassination Report. Whatever my grandfather was, he was exceptional at keeping secrets. This memoir shares a bit of my perspective about him, but it’s mostly about growing up in Louisiana with a remarkable family, America’s first paid informants, and my small part in his story.
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