Most of what I write about my grandfather, Edward Grady Partin, has been publicly available since 1992. You may already know about him, even if you don’t recall his name.
You may have seen him portrayed by Craig Vincent in Martin Scorsese’s 2019 film Jimmy, “The Irishman,” about mafia hit men and Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance. Or, you may remember Brian Dennehey portraying him in 1983’s “Blood Feud,” with Robert Blake as Jimmy Hoffa and Cotter Smith as Bobby Kennedy. Or, if you’re mature enough, you may remember his brief period of fame in the 60’s and 70’s, where he was showcased in national media like Time and Life magazines and televised news.
But most of what I write is based on what I’ve read. For example, Wikipedia’s 2021 summary of 1983’s Blood Feud supported my 11 year old memory of watching Big Daddy – what we called our grandfather – infiltrate Hoffa’s organization. I remembered that Hoffa seemed very, very angry, and that Big Daddy looked different, probably because I was seeing him on the tiny television at Grandma’s house instead of visiting him in prison.
According to Wikipedia, copied from some time in 2021, the 1983 and 1984 critical reviews of Blood Feud were as follows:
When the film was first aired, The New York Times television reporter, John Corry lauded Robert Blake’s acting, writing “Mr. Blake’s Hoffa is infinitely more interesting than Mr. Smith’s Kennedy. This Hoffa loves the Teamsters; whatever his sins, he really did get his head busted on picket lines. Mr. Blake, hair slicked back, squinting, oozing muscular energy, is, if not a charismatic figure, at least a commanding one. When he’s angry, you know he’s angry. He seethes…When Blood Feuddoes rise to drama, it’s almost always Mr. Blake’s doing. When Hoffa’s world comes crashing down, Mr. Blake thrashes like a spent, hooked fish, a large one. When he tries to make a deal with Kennedy, there’s authentic desperation. His Hoffa has all the passion. He’s the only participant in the feud.”
- Writers Guild of America Award: WGA Award (TV), Original/Adapted Multi-Part Long Form Series, Robert Boris, For part II; 1984.
- Emmy Award: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special, Robert Blake; 1983.
- Golden Globe Award: Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV, Robert Blake; 1984.
I believe that my memory of Jimmy Hoffa, which was based solely on Blood Feud, was rational given the time period. Sharing his story is only to emphasize that whatever happened, my family and teachers and community thought it was a big deal, and that influenced my childhood.
As a kid, I based my opinion off Hoffa on that film. It was my anchor. I haven’t shed that bias in the 40 years since I watched it for the first time. I can’t shake it. In my mind, Hoffa is Blake, and my grandfather is somehow a combination of Brian Denehey and John Wayne and himself. Our minds are interesting. I tried to be aware of that while writing a book based on 40 year old memories and what other people have written about my family.
My recollection of Big Daddy transitioned, but one view has remained consistent: he was handsome and charming and smiled almost perpetually. Hoffa summarized him well: “Edward Partin was a big, rough man who could charm a snake off a rock.”
I’ve always been fascinated by people who also didn’t see what everyone else seemed to see. Chief Justice Earl Warren was one of them, and he wrote more about Big Daddy than Hoffa, even though Hoffa spent eight years in prison because of Big Daddy; for some reason, Warren seemed more upset about that fact than Hoffa.
Hoffa fought Big Daddy’s testimony againat him all the way to the Supreme Court, and lost. Chief Justice Warren was the only vote against trusting my grandfather, and he thoroughly described why by documenting his thoughts in Hoffa v. United States, 385 U.S. 293 (1966)
I believe that’s remarkable, because I read that the U.S. Supreme Court only sees about 80 of the 7,000-8,000 cases that compete for a spot on the court’s calendar each year. Back then, you had a better chance of getting on Family Feud or landing on the moon or voting than having your case seen by the United States Supreme Court, much less a case that proclaims itself to be one man fighting the whole United States system of justice, and a case relentlesly prosecuted by a team funded and overseen by the US Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy, shortly after the assassination of his big brother.
Of course, Warren didn’t call my grandfather Big Daddy. He used “Partin” and “Jailbird.” When I copied his breadcrumbs, I replaced “Partin” and “Edward Partin” with “Big Daddy.” For me, that made it more relevant, and sounded funnier than reading my own name dozens of times, but I left “Jailbird” where Warren used it.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN, dissenting.
… a brief summary discloses that Big Daddy, after discussing Hoffa with federal agents and learning of their intense and mutually beneficial interest, successfully solicited an invitation to meet with Hoffa. Big Daddy’s release from jail was assisted by the federal agents, and he was compensated in a financial sense as well; in return, he kept the federal agents fully informed of all that occurred from the outset of his contact with Hoffa.
Surely the only reasonable construction of these facts is that Big Daddy was acting as a paid federal informer when he traveled to Nashville and attached himself to Hoffa. And the fact that Hoffa, on Big Daddy’s urging, agreed to a meeting in Nashville is not inconsistent with this conclusion. An invasion of basic rights made possible by prevailing upon friendship with the victim is no less proscribed than an invasion accomplished by force.
… one of the important duties of this Court is to give careful scrutiny to practices of government agents when they are challenged in cases before us, in order to insure that the protections of the Constitution are respected and to maintain the integrity of federal law enforcement.
But I consider both [he lists previous court decisions cited by other judges to justify using Big Daddy’s testimony – JiP] to be materially, even fundamentally, different from this Hoffa case. Here, Big Daddy, 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 Big Daddy 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. He immediately telephoned Hoffa, who was then in New Jersey, and, by collaborating with a state law enforcement official, surreptitiously made a tape recording of the conversation. A copy of the recording was furnished to federal authorities. Again on a pretext of wanting to talk with Hoffa regarding Big Daddy’s legal difficulties, Big Daddy telephoned Hoffa a few weeks later and succeeded in making a date to meet in Nashville, where Hoffa and his attorneys were then preparing for the Test Fleet trial. Unknown to Hoffa, this call was also recorded, and again federal authorities were informed as to the details.
Upon his arrival in Nashville, Big Daddy manifested his “friendship” and made himself useful to Hoffa, thereby worming his way into Hoffa’s hotel suite and becoming part and parcel of Hoffa’s entourage. As the “faithful” servant and factotum of the defense camp which he became, he was in a position to overhear conversations not directed to him, many of which were between attorneys and either their client or prospective defense witnesses. Pursuant to the general instructions he received from federal authorities to report “any attempts at witness intimidation or tampering with the jury,” “anything illegal,” or even “anything of interest,” Big Daddy became the equivalent of a bugging device which moved with Hoffa wherever he went. Everything Big Daddy saw or heard was reported to federal authorities, and much of it was ultimately the subject matter of his testimony in this case. For his services, he was well paid by the Government, both through devious and secret support payments to his wife and, it may be inferred, by executed promises not to pursue the indictments under which he was charged at the time he became an informer.
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 Big Daddy, 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 Big Daddy, who was the principal government witness, there would probably have been no convictions here. [In short: Hoffa never bribed his jury, and none of the jury members knew of the alleged bribe; Hoffa was convicted solely based on the new jury believing Big Daddy over Hoffa, one word against another – JiP]
I do not say that the Government may never use as a witness a person of dubious or even bad character. In performing its duty to prosecute crime, the Government must take the witnesses as it finds them. They may be persons of good, bad, or doubtful credibility, but their testimony may be the only way to establish the facts, leaving it to the jury to determine their credibility. In this case, however, we have a totally different situation. 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. [Even as a kid I thought that was ironic, and since then I’ve questioned the wisdom all judges- JiP] 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. Certainly if a criminal defendant insinuated his informer into the prosecution’s camp in this manner, he would be guilty of obstructing justice. 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.
The recording was not used here as a means to avoid calling the informer to testify. As I noted in my opinion concurring in the result in Lopez, I would not sanction the use of a secretly made recording other than for the purposes of corroborating the testimony of a witness who can give first-hand testimony concerning the recorded conversations and who is made available for cross-examination.
One Sydney Simpson, who was Big Daddy’s cellmate at the time the latter first contacted federal agents to discuss Hoffa, has testified by affidavit as follows:
“Sometime in September, 1962, I was transferred from the Donaldsonville Parish Jail to the Baton Rouge Parish Jail. I was placed in a cell with Big Daddy. For the first few days, Big Daddy acted sort of brave. Then, when it was clear that he was not going to get out in a hurry, he became more excited and nervous. After I had been in the same cell with Big Daddy for about three days, Big Daddy said, ‘I know a way to get out of here. They want Hoffa more than they want me.’ Big Daddy told me that he was going to get one of the deputies to get Bill Daniels. Bill Daniels is an officer in the State of Louisiana. Big Daddy said he wanted to talk to Daniels about Hoffa. Big Daddy said that he was going to talk to Captain Edwards and ask him to get Daniels. A deputy, whose name is not known to me, came and took Big Daddy from the cell. Big Daddy remained away for several hours.”
“A few days later, Big Daddy was released from the jail. From the day when I first saw the deputy until the date when Big Daddy was released, Big Daddy was out of the cell most of the day and sometimes part of the night. On one occasion, Big Daddy returned to the cell and said, ‘It will take a few more days and we will have things straightened out, but don’t worry.’ Big Daddy was taken in and out of the cell frequently each day. Big Daddy told me during this time that he was working with Daniels and the FBI to frame Hoffa. On one occasion, I asked Big Daddy if he knew enough about Hoffa to be of any help to Daniels and the FBI, and Partin said, ‘It doesn’t make any difference. If I don’t know it, I can fix it up.'”
“While we were in the cell, I asked Big Daddy why he was doing this to Hoffa. Big Daddy replied: ‘What difference does it make? I ‘m thinking about myself. Aren’t you thinking about yourself? I don’t give a damn about Hoffa. . . .'”
Shortly before Hoffa vs The United States, Warren had also authored the Warren Report, often repeated as the verdict on President Kennedy’s assassination, and addressed any possible conspiracy theories. But he didn’t have all the information when he penned the report in 1964.
More breadcrumbs became known after the Freedom of Information Act, signed by President Nixon until 1976, a year after Hoffa authorized his book and then vanished. (That’s the part in his story dramatized by “The Irishman.”)
But even under the Freedom of Information Act, presidents review the report and decide which parts to release. In 1992, President Bill Clinton was the first to release anything, but that was before the internet was well known, so you’d only see the JFK living document if you went to Washington DC and asked for it. I didn’t. But there was plenty to read online in the 60% freed by Clinton and published at Archives.gov.
I still have my first copy of that report, and It doesn’t appear to have changed. And not much new, to me, had been added. Conversely, for a few years, my grandfather’s editable Wikipedia page changed almost weekly. It even disappeared for a few days. But it came back, unlike Jimmy Hoffa.
I read that by 2020, 99.4% of the report was public. I don’t know what President Trump saw in the final 0.6%, but, as far as I can see in 2020 hindsight, nothing new about about Big Daddy has shown up since 1992, except for one blurb of national news in the 2000’s that most people ignored: Baton Rouge police where embarassed when men claiming to be federal agents confiscated all their records about Big Daddy without a warrant, and those records disappeared. Permanently. Unlike a Wikipedia page.
You probably know almost as much, or more, than I do about Hoffa and Partin and Bobby Kennedy. Although, to be fair, I’ve probably given more thought to news blurbs that mention them together than most people not named Partin, or anyone who doesn’t use their computer to filter out noise.
There’s an inexhaustible amount of news every day, and the JFK Assassination report is massive. I believe nothing is deleted, and that new information is simply appended. The physical version must take up an entire room in the National Archives, and even the online version feels overwhelming.
To save time, I wrote a quick program to eliminate parts that didn’t contain the words “Partin” and “Hoffa” within a few paragraphs of each other. This is what I found:
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.
The committee found that Hoffa and at least one of his Teamster lieutenants, Edward Partin, apparently did, in fact, discuss the planning of an assassination conspiracy against President Kennedy’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, in July or August of 1962.
Hoffa’s discussion about such an assassination plan first became known to the Federal Government in September 1962, when Partin informed authorities that he had recently participated in such a discussion with the Teamsters president.
In October 1962, acting under the orders of Attorney General Kennedy, FBI Director Hoover authorized a detailed polygraph examination of Partin. In the examination, the Bureau concluded that Partin had been truthful in recounting Hoffa’s discussion of a proposed assassination plan. Subsequently, the Justice Department developed further evidence supporting Partin’s disclosures, indicating that Hoffa had spoken about the possibility of assassinating the President’s brother on more than one occasion.
In an interview with the committee, Partin reaffirmed the account of Hoffa’s discussion of a possible assassination plan, and he stated that Hoffa had believed that having the Attorney General murdered would be the most effective way of ending the Federal Government’s intense investigation of the Teamsters and organized crime. Partin further told the committee that he suspected that Hoffa may have approached him about the assassination proposal because Hoffa believed him to be close to various figures in Carlos Marcello’s syndicate organization.
Partin, a Baton Rouge Teamsters official with a criminal record, was then a leading Teamsters Union official in Louisiana. Partin was also a key Federal witness against Hoffa in the 1964 trial that led to Hoffa’s eventual imprisonment.
While the committee did not uncover evidence that the proposed Hoffa assassination plan ever went beyond its discussion, the committee noted the similarities between the plan discussed by Hoffa in 1962 and the actual events of November 22, 1963. While the committee was aware of the apparent absence of any finalized method or plan during the course of Hoffa’s discussion about assassinating Attorney General Kennedy, he did discuss the possible use of a lone gunman equipped with a rifle with a telescopic sight, (338) the advisability of having the assassination committed somewhere in the South, as well as the potential desirability of having Robert Kennedy shot while riding in a convertible.
While the similarities are present, the committee also noted that they were not so unusual as to point ineluctably in a particular direction. President Kennedy himself, in fact, noted that he was vulnerable to rifle fire before his Dallas trip. Nevertheless, references to Hoffa’s discussion about having Kennedy assassinated while riding in a convertible were contained in several Justice Department memoranda received by the Attorney General and FBI Director Hoover in the fall of 1962.
Edward Partin told the committee that Hoffa believed that by having Kennedy shot as he rode in a convertible, the origin of the fatal shot or shots would be obscured. The context of Hoffa’s discussion with Partin about an assassination conspiracy further seemed to have been predicated upon the recruitment of an assassin without any identifiable connection to the Teamsters organization or Hoffa himself. Hoffa also spoke of the alternative possibility of having the Attorney General assassinated through the use of some type of plastic explosives.
The committee established that President Kennedy himself was notified of Hoffa’s secret assassination discussion shortly after the Government learned of it. The personal journal of the late President’s friend, Benjamin C. Bradlee, executive editor of the Washington Post, reflects that the President informed him in February 1963 of Hoffa’s discussion about killing his brother. Bradlee noted that President Kennedy mentioned that Hoffa had spoken of the desirability of having a silenced weapon used in such a plan. Bradlee noted that while he found such a Hoffa discussion hard to believe “the President was obviously serious” about it.
Partly as a result of their knowledge of Hoffa’s discussion of assassination with Partin in 1962, various aides of the late President Kennedy voiced private suspicions about the possibility of Hoffa complicity in the President’s assassination. The committee learned that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and White House Chief of Staff Kenneth O’Donnell contacted several associates in the days immediately following the Dallas murder to discuss the possibility of Teamsters Union or organized crime involvement.
In an interview with a newsman several weeks before his disappearance and presumed murder, Hoffa denied any involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy, and he disclaimed knowing anything about Jack Ruby or his motivations in the murder of Oswald. Hoffa also denied that he had ever discussed a plan to assassinate Robert Kennedy.
As in the cases of Marcello and Trafficante, the committee stressed that it uncovered no direct evidence that Hoffa was involved in a plot on the President’s life, much less the one that resulted in his death in Dallas in November 1963.
In addition, and as opposed to the cases of Marcello and Trafficante, Hoffa was not a major leader of organized crime. Thus, his ability to guarantee that his associates would be killed if they turned Government informant may have been somewhat less assured. Indeed, much of the evidence tending to incriminate Hoffa was supplied by Edward Grady Partin, a Federal Government informant who was with Hoffa when the Teamster president was on trial in October 1962 in Tennessee for violating the Taft-Hartley Act. 11
It may be strongly doubted, therefore, that Hoffa would have risked anything so dangerous as a plot against the President at a time that he knew he was under active investigation by the Department of Justice.12
Finally, a note on Hoffa’s character. He was a man of strong emotions who hated the President and his brother, the Attorney General. He did not regret the President’s death, and he said so publicly. Nevertheless, Hoffa was not a confirmed murderer, as were various organized crime leaders whose involvement the committee considered, and he cannot be placed in that category with them, even though he had extensive associations with them. Hoffa’s associations with such organized crime leaders grew out of the nature of his union and the industry whose workers it represented.
Hoffa was in fact facing charges of trying to bribe the jury in his 1962 trial in Tennessee on November 22, 1963. The case was scheduled to go to trial in January 1964. Hoffa was ultimately convicted and sentenced to a prison term. Partin was the Government’s chief witness against him.
Court records don’t tell the whole story, so I also used my grandmother’s handwritten attempt to write us a letter explaining how she had been fooled by Big Daddy. Her daughter, Aunt Janice, emailed us a scanned copy of the unfinished story after Mamma Jean passed away peacefully in 2002.
504 9th N.E.
Springhill, LA 71075
Aug. 17, 1996
My dear children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren,
I don’t know how to begin this. I should have written this when you were small, while it was fresh on my mind, also while your daddy was living. After someone dies, you seem to forget all the bad things and remember only the good in them. That is the way it is with my memories of Ed.
He was so charming when I met him. As Jimmy Hoffa wrote in his book, “Ed Partin could charm a snake off a rock.” It was Aug. 1949 and I was living with my sister, Mildred and her husband, Percy Cobb in Natchez, Mississippi. International Paper Company was building a mill and Percy was superintendent of construction. Ed was steward over the Teamsters, Union (I.B.T.C. and W.). He came to the house one afternoon to talk to Percy concerning the Teamsters, and that is how I met him. I was 18 years old and he was 26. I thought he was the most handsome man I had ever seen. He had blond hair, blue eyes and teeth like pearls. Keith, he looked just like you, except he was 6’2”. He didn’t smoke or drink, not even beer, and I believed every word he said. He loved to come over to Mildred’s when I babysat James Paul. I thought he would make a good father. After six weeks we were married in Fayette, Mississippi, Sept. 27, 1949.
Cynthia, I guess it was good thing I waited three years for you. Ed had not told me about his debts. He owed for three cars and we didn’t even have one. He had sold them before we married, spent the money but had not paid for the cars. He also had to spend three months in jail in Woodville, Mississippi, from October 10, 1949 until January 1, 1950. He wouldn’t tell me why; just that he was innocent. I wrote the judge a letter and he let him out. It was not until March 1964 that I found out why he was in jail.
He made about $75.00 every two weeks, which was pretty good in 1950. We moved to Pascagoula, Mississippi in the spring of 1950. The Electricians went on a strike the first week we were there. Ed drew his unemployment, $20.00 a week. We paid $8.00 per week for our rented room and shared a kitchen. It was nice, we had no responsibilities so we would go to the beach everyday and cook hotdogs or hamburgers. We started going to church and were baptized June 17, 1950. The strike lasted three months. By that time, International Paper Company, had started an addition to the mill in Natchez and we moved back there, to the Pharsalia Apartments, which were brand new and real nice, two bedrooms, kitchen, living room and bath, no air conditioning in those days. That is when we bought furniture, the old mahogany bedroom suite, sofa, chairs and tables for the living room and a red Formica top, chrome kitchen table and chairs. By this time Ed had let me start handling the money and I had him out of debt by the time you cam, Cynthia. You were the answer to my prayers. Ed was real disappointed that you were a girl. Your grandmas Foster always said she was so glad you were a girl because “Son,” (that’s what all his family called him) didn’t get his way for the first time in his life. You were so pretty and you soon won his heart because you cried after him every time he went to work.
Janice came a year later. I didn’t mind because Maurice was pregnant with Susan and we had the best time together. You and Susan were a week apart. I was going to help Maurice when she came from the hospital and then she was going to help me with Janice. I was not due until the first of August, but you came early so we had to call Mildred to come to our rescue. She was always so good to come stay with me when the first three of you were born. She stayed two weeks the next year when I had Edward. Ed was real good to go to church, he even went to Men’s training class when we lived in Natchez.
The construction ended with I.P. Company so we moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, September 1, 1953. He got a job with a construction company driving a truck, and then in March 1954, he was elected business agent and Secretary and Treasurer for the Teamsters of Local #5. He made $75.00 a week.
Baton Rouge was booming. Houses to rent were scarce. We rented a small two bedroom, kitchen, bath and living room on Ellerslie Drive, behind Memorial Stadium. By this time I was pregnant with Edward.
We were doing better financially. We bought a brand new 1954 Ford. Edward was born July 1, 1954, finally a boy. You were so precious. You had the most beautiful brown eyes and dark brown hair.
Ed began to find excuses not to go to church with us. He had union meetings on Sunday morning, so sometimes he would have them at the house and he would keep Edward while we went.
He organized Louisiana Creamery, Holsum and Sunbean Bakeries, and the Refineries that were being built between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. I really think he was honest during this time.
We bought a lot on Prescott Road and in 1956 we built a house. I drew the plans and selected everything in it. Ed was very cooperative. It was just what I wanted, 2,586 square feet and a double carport. We moved in December 15, 1956. By this time we had two cars. The Teamsters had bought our 1954 Ford for Ed and we bought me a 1955 red and white Oldsmobile. I suppose that was the happiest time of my life. I really wanted another baby, now that I had this big, pretty house with two bathrooms. I was thrilled when I had you, Teresa. Especially to have one with blue eyes.
Ed bought a truck stop and restaurant on Airline Highway, in April 1959, called the J and L Truck Stop. He also bought and old house with fifty acres out in the country close to Greensburg, Louisiana. He made a garden and mad repairs on the old house. He wanted us to move in it an sell the one on Prescott. I wouldn’t agree to it. I’m sure glad I didn’t. This is when our problems started. He was gone most of the time. Always Union Business or at the Truck Stop Restaurant. Mildred Kelly was a waitress there. I began to have suspicions of her and Ed having an affair. It would make him mad and deny it when I confronted him about it.
I am so thankful you all don’t remember how abusive he was to me. Cynthia, you probably remember some. I might could have tolerated his “other women,” if he had been good to me, but the only good thing about him was his generosity with is money. He thought money could buy anything. He never cared how much money I spent and he never objected of us going to church. He wouldn’t go with us but he was good to help me get you all dress. I am thankful for that. He was continuously buying me things what I called “a peace offering.” He bought me a 1959 Impala Chevrolet and the transmission went out on it with only 80 miles on it. He wanted to have it fixed but I told him I didn’t want it, that I would keep my Oldsmobile. I later found out he had given it to Mildred Kelly. He also started my silver with a place setting and all the serving pieces. He could never save money. He thought it was made to spend. He lavished you all with toys. Edward you had a gun and that lovely knife by the time you were five years old. I guess it’s a good thing I was conservative and learned how to handle money, because by the time we separated I knew how far a dollar would go.
He seemed to blame me for everything, even the fusses you all would have. He insisted I get a maid so I hired Olivia, remember her? She worked for me until we separated.
It was in January 1960 that I knew he was having the affair with Mildred Kelly. He had to go to Washington, DC on union business. He had driven and called me on his way back to tell me he was snow bound right outside of Atlanta, Georgia and would be home when he could. I knew she was with him but when he came home he denied it. I guess he thought if I had another baby that I wouldn’t leave him, so Keith, you were on the way soon after this.
By the summer of 1960, I knew Ed was doing things that were dishonest. He had to go to Atlanta and while he was gone, C.J. Brown, a Baton Rouge realtor, called and told me that the grass needed cutting at the house we had rented on Sevenoaks Drive. I quickly asked what was the house number and he told me. This was a shock to me, so that night I went over there. Ed came to the door but he turned out all the lights and wouldn’t let me in. The next day he told me that he was hiding dynamite for Jimmy Hoffa in that house. He also told me he was on some kind of drugs. I had called your Aunt Mil to come help me decide what to do. She came and I went home with her to Pine Bluff. Ed called everyday, begging me to come home. I was gone about two weeks, but we did go back. When I got home, I realized there was something wrong with him. He tried to keep it from me, but he finally showed me where he had been stabbed, the lowest part of his stomach, a horizontal cut about six inches long. It was always a mystery as to who did it. It needed stitches but he wouldn’t go to the doctor. He had been stabbed on his shoulder about four or five months before this. He wouldn’t tell me who did it either, but wouldn’t go to the doctor. When he left in January, the cut on his stomach had still not healed. In later years, Mrs. Rankin, one of my lawyers, said he probably was bringing in some kind of drugs in the wound. It sounded horrible to me, but I never knew.
Keith, I didn’t think you would ever get here. All the rest of you had been three or four weeks early, so by November 1, I was ready, but you didn’t get here until November the 17th. I worried about you while I was in the hospital, not knowing if Ed would be home, but I had Olivia and she took real good care of you.
Keith was nine days old when Ed told me he had to go to Havana, Cuba to see Fidel Castro. I didn’t believe him, but he gave me a number at the Havana Cabana Hotel for me to call. I called and talked to him, so he was there. This was another mystery. I never knew why he went. When President Kennedy was assassinated, and Lee Harvey Oswald arrested, I really thought Ed was going to be involved, but I don’t suppose there was any connection. When he got back from Cuba, there was some argument we had every day. Marge and Orlan were so good to me, helping me decide what to do. He advised me for one and a half years to stay with him. He would talk with Ed and Ed making promises not to see Mildred Kelly anymore, but finally said that she was blackmailing him. I tried to believe him, but there was always something disturbing and a mystery.
One nite I was giving Keith a bottle. Ed was asleep. I looked down, there under the bed were his shoes with a lot of money in them. I counted it quickly, I would guess about $20,000. I put it in the drawer and the next a.m. he asked where it was. I asked him where he got it. He said it wasn’t his, that he was to pass it on to someone that was to meet him at the Palms Motel. I never knew.
He had made several trips to Chicago, he said, and then
(This is where mother ended. She never finished her story)
[That last part was Aunt Janice’s addition, written to me. – JiP]
And I validated a few of my memories of stories from Uncle Doug, Big Daddy’s little brother who ran the Baton Rouge Teamsters after Big Daddy went to prison in the 80’s. His memoir, “From My Brother’s Shadow,” retold many of the stories I remembered as a kid. It’s available on Amazon and at a few free libraries in cafes near my home.
But, don’t believe anything I say, including this.
I’m notorious for making mistakes. I still mindlessly swap names of people when talking, and I make wrong turns when driving. I do this even with people I know well and roads I’ve traveled often. I’ve always watched my mind, or at least I began after I learned that mental illness runs in my family.
Shortly before Big Daddy died, federal agents told us that he had schizophrenia, a mental disease that was new and confusing at the time. I read that it’s genetic, and that I had a 26% chance of inheriting it – that’s more than a 1 out of 4 likelihood – so don’t believe everything I say, including that. Use the internet to verify or validate anything I say.
For this book, I used the definition of “schizophrenia” from the United States National Institute of Mental Health website, which ironically owes its existence, at least in part, to the last bill President Kennedy signed into law.
He signed the US Mental Care Act in 1963. Three weeks later, he was shot and killed by a sniper rifle; allegedly and ironically by Lee Harvey Oswald, former marine with a long history of mental illness. Two days later, Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby, who also had a long history of mental illness.
In 2021, I copied the definition of “schizophrenia” from the National Institute of Mental Health website , and though it doesn’t mention “conspiracy theories,” I’d like to add that in 1990, when the FBI told us Big Daddy had schizophrenia, people commonly associated schizophrenia with conspiracy theories and seeing secret and intentional patterns in news and television. Otherwise, the 2021 definition of schizophrenia is how I’ve interpreted it since I was in my early teens, trying to make sense of my family.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which causes significant distress for the individual, their family members, and friends.
Schizophrenia is typically diagnosed in the late teen years to the early thirties and tends to emerge earlier in males (late adolescence – early twenties) than females (early twenties – early thirties). A diagnosis of schizophrenia often follows the first episode of psychosis, when individuals first display symptoms of schizophrenia. Gradual changes in thinking, mood, and social functioning often begin before the first episode of psychosis, usually starting in mid-adolescence. Schizophrenia can occur in younger children, but it is rare for it to occur before late adolescence.
The symptoms of schizophrenia generally fall into the following three categories:
- Psychotic symptoms include altered perceptions (e.g., changes in vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste), abnormal thinking, and odd behaviors. People with psychotic symptoms may lose a shared sense of reality and experience themselves and the world in a distorted way. Specifically, individuals typically experience:
- Hallucinations, such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there
- Delusions, which are firmly held beliefs not supported by objective facts (e.g., paranoia – irrational fears that others are “out to get you” or believing that the television, radio, or internet are broadcasting special messages that require some response)
- Thought disorder, which includes unusual thinking or disorganized speech
Negative symptoms include loss of motivation, disinterest or lack of enjoyment in daily activities, social withdrawal, difficulty showing emotions, and difficulty functioning normally. Specifically, individuals typically have:
- Reduced motivation and difficulty planning, beginning, and sustaining activities
- Diminished feelings of pleasure in everyday life
- “Flat affect,” or reduced expression of emotions via facial expression or voice tone
- Reduced speaking
Cognitive symptoms include problems in attention, concentration, and memory. For some individuals, the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia are subtle, but for others, they are more prominent and interfere with activities like following conversations, learning new things, or remembering appointments. Specifically, individuals typically experience:
- Difficulty processing information to make decisions
- Problems using information immediately after learning it
- Trouble focusing or paying attention
Several factors contribute to the risk of developing schizophrenia.
Genetics: Schizophrenia sometimes runs in families.
Environment: Scientists think that interactions between genetic risk and aspects of an individual’s environment may play a role in the development of schizophrenia. Environmental factors that may be involved include living in poverty, stressful surroundings, and exposure to viruses or nutritional problems before birth.
Brain structure and function: Scientists think that differences in brain structure, function, and interactions among chemical messengers (called neurotransmitters) may contribute to the development of schizophrenia. For example, differences in the volumes of specific components of the brain, in the way regions of the brain are connected and work together, and in neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, are found in people with schizophrenia. Differences in brain connections and brain circuits seen in people with schizophrenia may begin developing before birth. Changes to the brain that occur during puberty may trigger psychotic episodes in people who are vulnerable due to genetics, environmental exposures, or the types of brain differences mentioned above.
How can I help someone I know with schizophrenia?
Caring for and supporting a loved one with schizophrenia can be very challenging. It can be difficult to know how to respond to someone who is experiencing psychosis.
Before and after Big Daddy’s funeral, I had read and tried to understand everything I could about mental illness and genetics. It was almost an obsession, but I never told anyone, because I thought, justifiably so, that I would have sounded crazy.
To augment my memories, I researched my family court records, beginning soon after I was born in 1972, when the state of Louisiana removed me from my parents custody because of “intemperance.” That’s another reason I’m an unrelible witness; I spent the first 7 years of my life, including when I met my dad and grandfather, living with various non-family legal guardians.
My part in family was summarized in a publicly available court report from 1979. Here’s an excerpt:
This couple was married when plaintiff was 17 and the defendant was 16 years of age. Nine months following the marriage, they gave birth to young Jason. While we are not concerned with the facts surrounding the separation and divorce, it was apparently one of incompatibility as defendant testified that at the age of 17 she found herself married to a man who did not love her and so she left. Her testimony was as follows:
As I say I was emotionally upset. I was receiving little support from Edward. I was scared, very confused. I didn’t know exactly which way to turn. I felt I had no one to listen and help with the situation at hand.
Several weeks later she returned and lived with her husband again. She found that the situation hadn’t changed, and felt she had to get away again. She heard of a man who wanted someone to share expenses on a trip to California, so she quit her job and with her last wages left with him. She testified that she had no sexual relations with this man, and plaintiff does not accuse her of such. Following this trip she returned to Baton Rouge still emotionally upset. Her husband was suing her for separation and told her he was going to take custody of Jason. She went to live with her aunt and uncle, got a full time job with Kelly Girls paying $512.00 per month.
In February, 1975, the defendant’s mother was injured in an accident and she moved in with her to care for her. In September, 1975, following the recuperation of the mother she returned to live with her aunt and uncle. During these above periods of time, the minor child lived with Mr. and Mrs. White. The Whites came to regard Jason as their own and, although the separation judgment awarded custody to the plaintiff with reasonable visitation privileges to the defendant, the Whites decided the defendant-mother could only see the child two days a month and that she could never keep the child over night. The reason the defendant did not contest custody at the separation trial was because at the time she felt unable emotionally and financially to care for her son.
To put those dates in perspective, Hoffa was released from prison and disappeared in 1975. According to my records, I had a strong alibi. Even Warren would have agreed.
I barely knew Big Daddy, so I can’t provide much more insight than what’s already online. That, plus my history of mistakes and my incentive to publish this book, makes me an unreliable witness. I think Chief Justice Warren would agree.
I have no idea what happened to Hoffa or who killed either Kennedy; though, if pressed by someone, I’ll admit that I don’t see Oswald as the shooter, and I believe that the president’s assassination was a long and coordinated effort that somehow included Big Daddy; especially when you know that Lee Harvey Oswald was in the Baton Rouge civil air force near my childhood house, and lived in New Orleans shortly before he allegedly shot Kennedy, and Jack Ruby unequivocally shot and killed Oswald.
Without being pressed, I’d quickly follow by saying I don’t think it matters unless we’re trying to understand the situation, and are working to improve it for everyone by tweaking our laws and processes to be more fair for everyone.
But I rarely discussed my family history. Friends know to avoid the topic, and strangers no longer recognize my name. And I waited 30 years to write this because my mother, Wendy Anne Rothdram, was a private person who didn’t want her part in the story shared. She had joked that she was WAR, which was bad enough, because she disliked war, but being WAR was not as bad as the one night she slept with my dad, Ed Partin Junior, and became WARP’ed by the Partin family. Wendy loved puns and disliked wars, may she rest in peace, and I know she would have appreciated her epithet: RIPWAR. Sh wouldn’t have anything to add to this book.
You already know 99.6% of what I know about Big Daddy. You may not learn more in this book. As Uncle Doug wrote in his memoir, some things are best left unsaid. Not to be secretive, but to be respectful of people and families who knew Ed Partin but don’t want to be a part in his story.
A memoir is, by definition, self-centered. Some are cathartic, and some are clarifying, and some are pointless. I’m not a politician or lawyer or writer, but I do have a point. Mostly, I’d like this book to be less of a story about my Partin family, and more of a catalyst for improved mental healthcare in America. Injust have a unique and somewhat interesting story to share, and my story subtly but conveniently links to Kennedy’s 1963 Mental Healthcare Act.