My grandfather, Edward Grady Partin, was a big man with a small part in history. FBI reports say that one year before President Kennedy was assassinated, he and Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa plotted to kill the president’s little brother, US Attorney General Bobby Kennedy by tossing plastic explosives tossed into his family’s home or by recruiting a sniper with a rifle and long-distance scope to shoot him as he rode through a southern town in his convertible. The report says that Hoffa said that if they used a sniper they must ensure he couldn’t be connected to the Teamsters. Less than 12 months later, President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed by a sniper rifle in his convertible as he rode through Dallas, Texas, a southern city a few hours north of my family’s home. Bobby Kennedy and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover suspected Hoffa, but they couldn’t prove anything and kept most of the 1962 report classified except for the part used to make my grandfather out to be a hero before Hoffa’s trial in an unrelated and relatively minor Teamsters trial.
In 1962, before anyone suspected that Kennedy would be assassinated, my grandfather was a local Teamster leader in jail for kidnapping and he was being indicted for manslaughter, and was suspected in many other crimes. He was likely to spend life in prison, but two days after being arrested he called the FBI and they called Bobby Kennedy and Bobby got him out of jail and Partin agreed to monitor Jimmy Hoffa in exchange for freedom and federal protection.
Convicting Hoffa was important to Bobby on a deep and personal level that was daily news back then. In the 1950’s and 60’s, Hoffa was said to be the most well known person in America that wasn’t a Kennedy. Almost 1 out of every 60 Americans were in his Teamsters Union – anyone who drove a truck, 18 wheeler, forklift, or golf cart could be a Teamster – and if you omit women, children, and retirees, then almost half of working class America was a Teamster under Hoffa. The Kennedy’s knew that Hoffa could slam the American economy to a halt by calling a strike, and that he had been using the millions of dollars that America paid him each month in unregulated Teamsters Union dues to fund Hollywood films and Las Vegas Casinos, lending the money to the newly formed American mafia, organized crime that was only just then being recognized by the Kennedy administration as a potential threat to America. In exchange, Teamsters were given contracts to transport movie equipment and actors and operate all on-set cars and carts, and to bring building materials to the newly formed city of Las Vegas casinos in the desert; and, though less publicized, to transport guns, drugs, and money from Cuba to Vegas via the port of New Orleans, where my grandfather ran the southeast Teamsters under Hoffa, and was an associate of Cuban President Fidel Castro and New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello. At the time, President Kennedy was preparing to begin what would become a 60+ year trade embargo against Castro’s Cuba, which probably sparked J. Edgar Hoover’s interest in monitoring Hoffa and my grandfather’s conversations. That, plus Hoffa’s threat to the American economy, led the president to appoint his little brother, the highest ranking figure of American justice, to head a task force focused on nothing but prosecuting down Hoffa, to find anything at all that would remove him from power, and in the fall of 1963 J. Edgar Hoover presented his preliminary findings from 1962 surveillance to both Bobby and the president and advised the president to forgo riding in an open convertible, but the president proceeded, anyway, saying that he knew he was at risk in his convertible, especially in Dallas, which had gained a reputation as the “City of Hate” because of rhetoric against President Kennedy from both right and left wing extremists who either wanted him to increase American military presence in Vietnam or decrease economic sanctions against Cuba.
On November 22nd, 1963, at 12:30 PM Central Standard Time, President Kennedy was shot by a 6.35mm rifle bullet and pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital 30 minutes later. Police found another 6.5mm bullet in the hospital, near the Texas governor, who, along with his wife, had been shot while riding through downtown Dallas with the president. By then, the world was watching, and for years an entire generation of people would discuss what they were doing when they heard about JFK’s assassination. But, I was still eight years away from being conceived, and, to the best of my knowledge, I have no recollection of where I could have been when Kennedy was shot.
70 minutes after the president was shot, a former marine from New Orleans named Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for shooting and killing a Dallas police officer as he left a movie theater near the infamous grassy knoll and 6th floor school book depository where police had found the abandoned Italian carbine. It was quickly discovered that Oswald had a long history of mental illness dating back to elementary school and continuing throughout his service in the U.S. marines. He had received a less-than-honorable discharge, and had defected to Russia and married a Russian woman before returning to New Orleans with a new bride and baby; inexplicably, the FBI had paid for his return plane ticket home, and, even more explicably, had allowed him to travel to Mexico City a few months before Kennedy’s death to try to reach Castro and get support for Oswald’s anti-America, pro-Cuba organization in New Orleans. And, he had begun developing relationships among Dallas’s pro-communist, anti-Kennedy community.
Oswald had purchased the carbine from a mail order catalog a year before using an alias, and had it sent to a Dallas gunsmith to add a scope. He had posed with it in New Orleans in a now famous photograph that’s since been enhanced to show distinct marks that match the carbine found in the Dallas book depository, and forensic analysis would show, without reasonable doubt, that the 6.5mm bullets had been fired from Oswald’s rifle, and that the bullets matched other bullets recovered earlier that year from a failed assassination attempt against a famous army general, General Walker. He had moved to Dallas only a few months before Kennedy was shot, and had taken the carbine with him and, apparently, left it in the 6th floor room in downtown Dallas after shooting President Kennedy. Soon, there would be no doubt that Oswald’s rifle had shot and killed President Kennedy.
Two days after the president was shot and killed, on Sunday, November 24th at 11:21 AM, almost 147 million people were watching police escort Oswald out of the Dallas police station in handcuffs on live television when they saw Jack Ruby walk up to Oswald and remove a Colt Cobra snub-nosed .38 special revolver from his pocket and shoot Oswald in the stomach from only a few feet away; even though it was broadcast on live television internationally, the well-timed newspaper photograph of Ruby’s outstretched hand wrapped around his Colt Cobra and Oswalds open-mouthed gasp immediately afer he was shot would become one of the 20th centuries most famous photographs, and how most people would remember Ruby and Oswald.
Ruby was arrested, and Oswald was rushed to Parkland Hospital and pronounced dead at 1:07 PM only a few floors from where President Kenndy’s body was being kept for autopsy. The world turned its attention to Ruby. There could be no doubt of his guilt – there had been 147 million witnesses – but people began suspecting a larger plot, a coordinated conspiracy with theories ranging from retaliation by organized crime to a communist led assassination by Russia or Cuba. Almost all theories assumed Ruby was involved and killed Oswald to prevent him from testifying and disclosing a bigger plot.
Investigators learned that Jack Ruby was a 52 year old Dallas nightclub owner and air force veteran with a long history of mental illness. He claimed he was distraught, that he loved Kennedy and decided Sunday morning to kill Oswald and save Kennedy’s widow the grief of a long trial. He had owned the Colt Cobra, a small concelable “detective gun” chambered with the FBI standard the time, .38 special, enough to kill someone at close range, and Ruby knew enough to keep it in his coat pocket and to use his middle finger to pull the trigger, a detail that would show up in photo evidence. He was rumored to be a low-level mob associate, relatively harmless but prone to outbursts of emotion. The FBI tested him with lie detector machines as he swore he acted alone in a burst of emotion, and his defense team tried to use a new concept of “temporary insanity,” but Ruby kept contradicting himself, like saying he had planned to shoot three times but police tackled him and took the gun before he could fire again, and the jury saw enough evidence of premeditation that he was found guilting of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, where he would continue to change his story and tell people that the government was trying to kill him by injecting him with cancer cells. He died of pulmanary embolism secondary to lung cancer that had spread to his brain and liver in Parkland Hospital on January 3rd, 1967. He was 56 years old, and had been a lifelong smoker.
The United States does not try deceased people in court, so we relied on an investigation into Oswald’s presumed guilt overseen by the highly respected Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Earl Warren. He had more than 30 years of experience as a prosecutor, and had already received almost universal admiration from politicians across the spectrum for his controversial rulings on issues such as abortion and education in Roe vs Wade and Brown vs the Board of education, and the ubiquitous Miranda vs Arizona that led to the now famous Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent when arrested. Ten months after Kennedy died, The 888 page Warren report detailed interviews with 542 witnesses and the latest forensic evidence by the FBI and independent experts, and concluded that “Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot and killed President John F. Kennedy.” But, despite Warren’s prestige, few people believed that one mentally ill man could kill the American president, insisting that even an expert marksmen couldn’t shoot the notoriously inaccurate Italian carbine from that distance and pointing to omitted witnesses and unaddressed theories; investigators even had military and FBI marksmen attempt to hit a bullseye from the same type of rifle from the same distance, and they were unsuccessful. That, and other bits of information led to a majority of Americans surveyed believing that some type of conspiracy must have existed, a belief that persists to today.
Most of J. Edgar Hoover’s report on Hoffa and my grandfather remained classified throughout the Oswald investigation, being witheld from even Earl Warren. But, in a courtroom drama ostensibly separate from the Kennedy’s was being monitored by national media, a trial against Jimmy Hoffa for jury tampering when he represented the Teamsters and which, if he was found guilty, would remove him from power and send him to prison. It was high drama for America’s most famous person not a Kennedy, and Hoffa was daily news in America, especially since the president’s death because his feud with Bobby Kenndy and the FBI task force had escalated to a public display of anger and hatred that was so fierce that media dubbed it “The Blood Feud.” People consumed The Blood Feud daily, and read anything printed about Hoffa. Shortly before Hoffa’s jury was selected, Hoover endorsed my grandfather’s lie detector test in Life and Look magazines, confirming that Hoffa had planned to kill Bobby Kennedy, and magazines realized that my grandfather was big and handsome and charming and spoke with a lovely southern accent, and they plastered my family across national magazines along with the new first-family of former Vice President Johnson and other charming families. One headline said, “Plot to kill Bobby Kennedy: Inside Hoffa’s savage kingdom,” and showed photos of my grandfather laughing and playing with my dad, uncle, and aunts. They had photos of him shirtless and in boxing gloves, and mentioned his marine service, though they omitted his dishonorable discharge or his multiple crimes, including burglury, rape, extortion, kidnapping, and adultury – he had a second family in addition to mine. But, he was handsome and charming, and he spoke eloquently of listening to Hoffa ask him to obtain plastic explosives so that the Teamsters could kill Bobby, and saying that he refused because he didn’t want to harm Bobby’s children, and detailing the beatings and stabbings he endured in order to bring the truth to the American people, and when he stood up in the Chatanooga courtroom as a surprise witness against Hoffa, Hoffa simply said, “Damn. It’s Partin,” and he knew that he was in trouble. The jury trusted my grandfather over the most famous man in America, and found Hoffa guilty of attempting to bribe a juror by asking my grandfather to pay him $25,000 in cash. No money had ever exchanged hands, and Hoffa was convicted based solely on my grandfather’s testimony. The judge sentenced him to 11 years in prison. No one mentioned the second part of Hoover’s report about a sniper and a convertible in a southern town.
Hoffa fought his conviction and my grandfather’s testimony all the way to the Supreme Court where his case, Hoffa vs. The United States, was coincidently overseen by Chief Justice Earl Warren. He was the only one of the nine U.S. Supreme Court judges to vote against using my grandfather’s testimony, especially because he knew that Supreme Court cases became predicates for decisions in lower courts and Warren had discovered that not only had my grandfather been removed from jail, his record continued to be modified and scrubbed clean, and even his recent charges for – ironically, Warren emphasized – jury tampering and perjury were inexplicably being purged; and, he had uncovered that my family was being paid a monthly salary by the federal government. He called my grandfather “a jailbird, languishing in a Baton Rouge jail cell,” and said that he was incentivised to lie, that “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 entaglements with the State and Federal Governments. And it is interesting to note that, if this was his motive, [Partin] 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 seriuos federal chargeds for which he was at that time jailed, and the state charges have apparently vanished into thin air.” And, according to Warren, my family became America’s first paid witnesses, noting that my grandmother was being paid a monthly salary by the federal government, adding another layer of conflicting interests in my grandfather’s testimony. Warren wrote a three page rebuttal against his eight peers and their verdict, permanently attached to the court record, saying the future of American justice is at stake if we allowed the unverifiable testimony of incredulous paid witnesses to sentence citizens to prison. Only 80 or so of dozens of thousands of Supreme Court applications is tried, and to this day, Hoffa vs. The United States is cited as a precident for lower courts to justify using paid informants or informants of dubious character. Few attorneys citing that case would investigate it further.
My grandfather returned to Baton Rouge, where he was almost universally referred to as Bug Daddy because if his bulk and charisma, and the Teamsters of Local #5 unanimously voted for Big Daddy to remain in charge. A few years later, just before Christmas of 1971, his teenage son, Edward Grady Partin Junior, met Wendy Anne Partin at Glen Oaks high school, and I was born ten months later. Soon after, a Louisiana judge removed me from their custody, citing abandonment and intemperance, and placed me under the guardianship of a man coincidently also named Edward, Ed White, and I knew that Edward as PawPaw.
I remained with PawPaw until 1979, which was coincidentally the year that the United States Congressional Committee on Assassinations concluded that, contrary to the Warren Report, the assassination of President Kennedy had likely been a conspiracy. But the congressional report was kept confidential despite the 1976 Freedom of Information Act, and President Jimmy Carter and every president since him has been allowed to review the report and choose which parts, if any, to release to the public. And, coincidentally, it was the year that Big Daddy finally went to prison after a four year legal battle that had begun after Hoffa disappeared. He was released early because of declining health, and returned to Baton Rouge in 1986 and died in 1990. He was still a minor celebrity, and his funeral was filled with reporters and politicians and FBI agents, mostly becasue Hoffa’s disappearance and was still a national topic. People suspected that my grandfather knew more than he had said. We never learened if he did, and in books and films about Hoffa, Big Daddy’s role has been limited to his testimony in Hoffa’s trial and what was known publicly in the 60’s and 70’s. No one had read the FBI reports, and few people questioned how he had been able to call Bobby Kennedy from jail. His obituary in The New York Times simply said:
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.
In 1992, newly elected President Bill Clinton released approximately 60% of the JFK Assassination report, in part because of public demand after a successful and poplar film by Oliver Stone, JFK, that missed a lot of facts. The JFK Assassination Report is a massive living document that expounds upon the Warren report and goes into minute detail about every contradiction in witness testimonies, conflicts of interest, changes to reports and memories, and new forensic evidence. But, their conclusion was inconclusive, and the final statement after decades of research was, “The Committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The Committee is unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy.” They went on to specifically say that they did not believe there was a plot by the Soviet government, the Cuban government, anti-Castro groups, or organized crime was involved; though they admitted that they couldn’t exclude individual members of those entities being involved. The report emphasizes the similarities between my grandfather and Hoffa’s 1962 plot against Bobby and the similarities with JFK’s 1963 assassination, but says that though Hoffa was an angry and intense man, he was also rational and would unlikely have attempted to murder the president while under scrutiny by Bobby and under indictment for jury tampering. The report doesn’t mention Hoffa’s trial or address Warren’s questions about how my grandfather became favored by Bobby Kennedy.
In 2004, men claiming to be federal agents walked into the Baton Rouge police department and asked them to hand over all evidence from Edward Partin’s 1962 arrest and phone calls. They did, and then the FBI denied involvement and the incident made national news, and the records haven’t been seen since.
Big Daddy’s little brother, Uncle Doug, who retired after leading the Baton Rouge Teamsters local #5 for 30 years after my grandfather, died in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. He had written a 2013 autobiography entitled, “From My Brother’s Shadow,” and he says what most of us suspected all along, that Edward Partin lied to the judge and jury about what he and Hoffa had said to get out of jail. But, even Doug hadn’t read the JFK report, so had he had not known about the previously reported similarities between FBI surveillance of my grandfather and JFK’s subsequent assassination. Like most of America, he only associated Edward Grady Partin with Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters Union. But, even without a link to Kennedy, I always thought that it’s remarkable that Hoffa vs. The United States still stands as a legal precedent despite the evidence against its verdict.
Everything I wrote so far has been available publicly for decades, available in the National Archives and Supreme Court records and other reputable internet sites; though, admittedly, those parts are of negligible interest to anyone not named Partin or Hoffa or Kennedy. Even my childhood court reports were put online in the 2000’s, and a long time ago I realized that everything about my family was public and easily accessible if you knew I was related to Ed Partin, even the answers to security questions to access my bank accounts, and I became a much more private person, just like my mom had been. I don’t have much to add to public records of interest to anyone but me and our few surviving Partin family members from that time; but, I’ve always wanted to write a memoir about growing up in and out of my Partin family, and this will be it. I’ll try to stop using “part in” puns, and I hope you enjoy my version of what happened to Big Daddy and my part in the Partin family from 1972 until 1990.
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