My Dad’s Story
I assume Lottingger was a competent and honest judge, doing his due diligence and reviewing controversial or unusual Supreme Court verdicts, and that he read books and the daily newspapers, or that he would have somehow else recognized my dad’s name, if only for my grandfather, Edward Grady Partin Senior. But he still didn’t share their Partin history, so perhaps he wasn’t aware. Though any internet search today shows that my grandfather was nationally, if not internationally, famous then as the Baton Rouge Teamster leader who worked with Bobby Kennedy to send Jimmy Hoffa to prison; he was the surprise witness sent international Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa to prison for eight years in 1964, and in the years since, especially around the time the Warren Report on President Kennedy’s assassination was released in 1964, When Life did an expose on the newly recognized mafia in America throughout the mid 1960’s, when US Attorney General Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, when Hoffa finally went to prison in 1969, and when national hero Audie Murphy died in 1971. In many of these times, he and my family, including my young dad, were showcased globally in the monthly Life magazine, on television interviews and newspaper photos weekly, and his name took up the vast majority of all references in books about Hoffa, including Hoffa’s authorized biography released that year, just before Hoffa famously vanished from a Detroit parking lot on July 30th, 1975, just as Lottinngger was assuming my case. My grandfather had even brought the attention of Chief Justice Earl Warren, who was the only one of nine judges to vote against using Edward Partin’s testimony against Hoffa, and who wrote a three page missive about my grandfather in Hoffa vs The United States. The governor of Louisiana, John McKiethen, for whom Lottingger had been working, railed against “Partin and his ganster Teamsters” in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge newspapers frequently, making front page several times in response to widely publicized shoot-outs between the Baton Rouge Teamsters and concrete plants across the Mississippi Bridge that had, initially, refused to hire Teamster union labor, but somehow changed their minds after meeting my grandfather. McKiethen lost the election in 1972, just like newspaper had reported Big Daddy saying he would, and many people in the state said Big Daddy would have become governor if he only he had had a college degree.
Judge Lottingger either hadn’t heard the name Edward Grady Partin Senior, or he had heard it and didn’t mention it in Partin vs. Partin; either way, I think it’s remarkable.
My dad was born in 1954 as the third of five children to Norma Jean Partin and Edward Grady Partin. Norma Jean was a gorgeous, confident, well spoken redhead with dark brown eyes and a voluptuous figure. She was from Spring Hill, Louisiana, near Texarkana and the tri-state border of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. She was so stunning that people compared her to the famous model and actress Marilyn Monroe, whose real name was also Norma Jean, and by 18 years old the beautiful Norma Jean that would become my Mamma Jean was courted by almost every man who meet her. Her family was spread across the south, and when she visited her cousins in Woodville, Mississippi, she met my grandfather, a physically large and fit man who was remarkably handsome, with clear skin and rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes and wavy blonde hair with hints of red, and with a charming smile and slick southern accent and sweet words. He was a 26 year old up-and-coming labor union leader who ran unions for both the Woodville sawmill workers and the truckers that delivered raw lumber and carried away cut timber. Almost everyone in Louisiana and Mississippi called him Big Daddy. His Wikipedia page changes often due to its open source, and usually around the time a movie is made about Jimmy Hoffa and only once or twice with anything other than rewording his 1990 obituary, and because photographs were black and white back then, only a few of us remember the hints of red in his hair and slightly rosey cheeks and that’s never mentioned in any summary and, to me, not worth learning how to edit Wikipedia to mention it.
Men would recall his brute force, and that’s well documented in all books about Hoffa and in the movies that portray him. He had briefly been a marine during WWII and had boxed several semi professional matches, and part of his calm demeanor came from his confidence that he could take care of a room full of men with his bare hands, and if he needed more than his hands he always carried a folding knife he used for elk hunting in Flagstaff, and knew how to use it.
Everyone said he was charming. In the chapter about him in Hoffa’s 1975 book, Hoffa begins the chapter about Ed Partin by saying, “Edward Partin was a big, rough man who could charm a snake off a rock.” Mamma jean was smitten immediately.
As soon as Mamma Jean met Big Daddy, she wrote to her family that she had found a handsome, hard working man who she believed would make a good father. They were married six weeks later and began having children immediately. Aunt Janice was born first, followed by Cynthia, my dad, Theresa, and then Kieth. They outgrew Woodville, and moved to Baton Rouge, where Big Daddy took over the Teamsters Local #5 and forcibly installed one of Hoffa’s men into power in New Orleans. Hoffa was so impressed with Big Daddy’s tactics and that Big Daddy quickly became one of Hoffa’s most trusted lieutenants, a decision that would soon cost Hoffa his presidency and many years of his life, and then his life; or so I assume. To this day, even after the 2019 Scorcese film The Irishman, no one knows for sure what happened. I don’t.
In 1963 Mamma Jean fled Big Daddy and hid their five children from him and the Teamsters, placing them with different relatives throughout the south in hunting and fishing camps that were relatively undocumented and difficult to find. She had learned that her husband wasn’t the man she had assumed he was, though he had been a good father to all of his children except my dad – my aunts and uncle would say that Big Daddy was “rough” on him without explaining more – and that he had been married with another family when they met, and that she suspected him of being involved with the mafia and President Kennedy’s assassination, though she never had proof and didn’t discuss her suspicions with anyone out of self-doubt and fear for her children’s safety.
In 1964, Big Daddy helped Sydney Simpson, a 22 year old Local #5 Teamster, kidnap his two young children after losing them in a custody trial in the same East Baton Rouge Parish courthouse that my records would begin appearing a few years later; simultaneously, he was charged with manslaughter in Mississippi, and would have faced trials for both federal crimes, but President Kennedy’s little brother, U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, had him freed and provided him immunity and cleared his criminal record in exchange for infiltrating Hoffa’s inner circle and reporting “any attempts at witness intimidation or tampering with the jury,” “anything illegal,” or “anything of interest.” Immediately after Big Daddy’s release from the Baton Rouge jailhouse, the director of the FBI’s Get Hoffa Task Force, Walter Sheridan, located Mamma Jean and her children and offered her a deal: if she remained silent and didn’t divorce Big Daddy until at least after they convicted Hoffa of something, the federal government would buy her a house big enough for her and her five children and pay her a monthly stipend equivalent to what she would have received in alimony. She agreed, and later that year Big Daddy became famous as the surprise witness that sent the world’s most powerful Teamster leader to prison; Jimmy Hoffa was said to be the most famous man in America, after John F. Kennedy. Big Daddy testified that Hoffa had asked him to bribe a juror in a relatively minor case against Hoffa using $20,000 from Hoffa’s petty cash safe, and though there were no witnesses or recordings, Hoffa was sentenced to eight years in prison based on Big Daddy’s testimony and the jury believing my handsome, smiling, charming, grandfather. Immediately after the trial, Big Daddy and his children were showcased across national media, without Mamma Jean but implying they were happy, and Big Daddy became was called an All American hero for helping Bobby Kennedy stop corruption in the Teamsters by putting Hoffa in prison.
Few Americans knew the truth about Big Daddy because Bobby Kennedy and Walter Sheridan had expunged his long history of criminal activity. But Walter kept many of his FBI records, and he listed some of Big Daddy’s history his 1972 book, “The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa,” published just after I was born and including dates right up until the events around my birth, coincidentally. Walter wrote:
“Partin, like Hoffa, had come up the hard way. While Hoffa was building his power base in Detroit during the early forties, Partin was drifting around the country getting in and out of trouble with the law. When he was seventeen he received a bad conduct discharge from the Marine Corps in the state of Washington for stealing a watch. [That wasn’t true: he punched a captain and was discharged for assaulting an officer, though I heard he removed the unconscious captain’s watch, but the captain may have been embarrassed by how Big Daddy obtained it and told investigators otherwise. – JiP] One month later he was charged in Roseburg, Oregon, for car theft. The case was dismissed with the stipulation that Partin return to his home in Natchez, Mississippi. Two years later Partin was back on the West Coast where he pleaded guilty to second degree burglary. He served three yeas in the Washington State Reformatory and was parolled in February, 1947. One year later, back in Mississippi, Partin was again in trouble and served ninety days on a plea to a charge of petit larceny. Then he decided to settle down. He joined the Teamsters Union, went to work, and married a quiet, attractive Baton Rouge girl. [That wasn’t true: my grandmother was from Spring Hill, near Texarkana, and she wasn’t quiet; she was vociferously opinionated among friends and family, and was disciplined enough to remain silent around FBI agents and reporters. She accepted the government payout in exchange for her silence around Waltler and the media to provide for her five children, never lying, and saying the Lord words in mysterious ways. – JiP] In 1952 he was elected to the top post in Local 5 in Baton Rouge. When Hoffa pushed his sphere of influence into Louisiana, Partin joined forces and helped to forcibly install Hoffa’s man, Chuck Winters from Chicago, as the head of the Teamsters in New Orleans.”
Many crimes were omitted from Walter’s book and were being removed from court houses across America. But, even then, and with a quick search on today’s internet, you could see that he had been, and probably still was, a rapist, murderer, thief, lier, adulturer, bearer of false witness (Hoffa even knew that), who had begun skipping church on Sundays. And though, technically, rape isn’t a sin in the bible for reasons I don’t understand, I’m sure that if God met Big Daddy that would change.
Chief Justice Earl Warren was perplexed by my grandfather. More specifically, he was the only one of nine judges critical of my grandfather’s character, and the only one to dissent against Partin’s testimony in Hoffa vs. the United States, where he permanently recorded his thoughts on my grandfather for posterities sake, publicly available to anyone seeking it since 1966.
By then Warren was a household name, a respected bipartisan Supreme Court judge with almost a 40 year history, having overseen landmark cases such as Roe vs Wade, Brown vs the Board of Education, and the case that enforced Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent; and, most notably, the 888 page Warren Report on President Kennedy’s assassination that the world had waited for and famously but inaccurately concluded that “Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot and killed President John F. Kennedy.” Of all people, Warren should have had access to all of the facts about my family, yet he was so confused by the situation surrounding Big Daddy and wrote a three page missive of this thought process to forever be preserved in Hoffa vs. The United States for posterity to ponder, not unlike Judge Lottingger had partially documented my family history in Partin vs. Partin for posterity, too.
“Here, Edward Partin, a jailbird languishing in a Louisiana jail under indictments for such state and federal crimes as embezzlement, kidnapping, and manslaughter (and soon to be charged with perjury and assault), contacted federal authorities and told them he was willing to become, and would be useful as, an informer against Hoffa, who was then about to be tried in the Test Fleet case. A motive for his doing this is immediately apparent — namely, his strong desire to work his way out of jail and out of his various legal entanglements with the State and Federal Governments. And it is interesting to note that, if this was his motive, he has been uniquely successful in satisfying it. In the four years since he first volunteered to be an informer against Hoffa he has not been prosecuted on any of the serious federal charges for which he was at that time jailed, and the state charges have apparently vanished into thin air. Shortly after Partin made contact with the federal authorities and told them of his position in the Baton Rouge Local of the Teamsters Union and of his acquaintance with Hoffa, his bail was suddenly reduced from $50,000 to $5,000 and he was released from jail,”
“… Partin’s wife received four monthly installment payments of $300 from government funds, and the state and federal charges against Partin were either dropped or not actively pursued.”
Warren may have known of a few payments to Mamma Jean, but all of us knew about the home and many more payments; those are some of the details of my family history that I know to be true but are undocumented. But, per Mamma Jean’s agreement, no one in my family had ever shared that information publicly until now. Even with only a few payments offered, technically the Partin family is considered America’s first ‘paid informants,’ different than a witness program in which identities are hidden, in that we were paid before a testimony and then we weren’t hidden and our name was known publicly, though the details remained classified or hidden. As I mentioned, my family has a long history of keeping secrets, and we’re pretty good at it.
Earl Warren wasn’t the only person perplexed by Big Daddy’s vanishing criminal history. Jimmy Hoffa had hundreds of millions of dollars at his disposal, and he hired the best lawyers possible to discredit Big Daddy, men who defended high profile cases and mafia bosses and knew how to find information and intimidate witnesses, yet even they found nothing in the years of appeals between Big Daddy’s 1964 testimony and Warren’s 1966 missive, where he wrote:
“Partin underwent cross-examination for an entire week. The defense was afforded wide latitude to probe Partin’s background, character, and ties to the authorities; it was permitted to explore matters that are normally excludable, for example, whether Partin had been charged with a crime in 1942, even though that charge had never been prosecuted.”
“I cannot agree that what happened in this case is in keeping with the standards of justice in our federal system, and I must, therefore, dissent.”
Despite Warren’s protests and for reasons I don’t understand, his one vote didn’t override Big Daddy’s testimony, and Hoffa went to prison based on Big Daddy’s word and my family remained silent for decades.
Understandably, after seeing behind the scenes of America’s justice system and having a man like Big Daddy be “rough” on him, my dad became a rebellious teenager with distrust of the government and authority, and he left Mamma Jean’s to live with Big Daddy’s mother, my great-Grandma Foster, who lived near the Baton Rouge airport a few blocks away from where Wendy was living with Granny. Walter’s book and a team of FBI agents and federal marshals were following my family around the time of my conception, but they were probably unconcerned about what a 17 year old marijuana dealer did and had more important things to focus on; to them, at last.
By 1971, he was ruggedly handsome and admirably defiant against teachers and anyone in authority, and, as per many young people in 1971, adamantly against the war in Vietnam that had escalated so quickly after Kennedy died. And then his father was suspected of killing America’s most decorated war hero, Audie Murphy, for reasons I’ll explain soon, and at the time he may have also had a slight nervous breakdown and met Wendy Anne Rothdram when she was distraught from loosing her boyfriend to the war and being abandoned by her father, and she smoked his stuff and their union led to me.
He proposed marriage when he learned, saying he didn’t want to be like his father, who had abandoned his first family, in a way, and who had been spending more time with Audie than his children, for reasons no one understands. My dad wanted to be a better man than his father and his grandfather, Grady Partin, who had abandoned Grandma Foster and her three childre and led Big Daddy to dropping out of school and doing what he thought he had to do to take care of them. My parents dropped out of high school and drove an hour away to Mississippi, near where Grandma Foster and Big Daddy had been born and he still had family to host them, and where state laws didn’t require parental consent for a 17 year old boy and a 16 year old girl to be married. States recognize each other’s marriage certificates, and they returned to Baton Rouge and lived in one of Big Daddy’s many houses near forested swamps.
In 1972, around the time of my birth, Big Daddy was arrested again, charged with stealing $450,000 from the Local #5 safe, and the only two witnesses were found beaten and bloody. The safe was recovered in a murky river near where Wendy was living in the rental house Big Daddy had let her and my dad use. His arrest made front page headlines, and around that time my dad left us and rode to Miami with his friends on motorcyles to travel to some island and buy drugs in bulk, and Wendy was left alone with me, without a car or job. As she said, she felt emotionally upset, alone, scared, and confused; and she felt she had no where to turn. I can’t imagine anyone feeling any less in her situation and with the Partin family. It probably left her feeling warped, and she fled Baton Rouge to straighten her self out.
The day Wendy abandoned me in 1972, the daycare center was closing and I was the last baby there and they didn’t know what to do. They called her emergency contacts, but Auntie Lo and Uncle Bob were too drunk to answer the phone and Wendy hadn’t left Granny’s number because they were still estranged. She had given the center Linda White’s name, and when she answered she told her father and he dropped what he was doing and rushed to the daycare center and picked me up, and the rest is history. It’s likely that he had to work during weekdays and couldn’t attend my custody trials, and it’s just as likely that early family court systems didn’t view the opinions of unrelated caregivers as relevant to family matters, but it’s rare to have a non-relative given custody of a minor child, especially one with an extensive family like I had. That was the ex-parte error Lottingger mentioned; a joke Wendy and I would pronounce as “ex-Partin,” and, though she never changed her name, she said that divorcing my dad made her an ex-Partin. As I mentioned, we grew to have our own, unique, insider jokes and humor that few people would understand, especially because it’s such as long story.
No one knows why Ed White was given so much authority of me as my legal guardian when both of my parents were fighting for custody. The first trial judge had “by ex parte order, awarded the temporary care, custody and control of the minor to Mr. and Mrs. James Ed White,” and after that judge’s presumed suicide another judge granted custody to my dad on paper; but, for some unknown reason that judge kept Mr. White as my guardian with physical custody. Whatever the reasons, I’m forever grateful, because Ed White was more than my guardian, he was my PawPaw, my father, my friend, and possibly the most influential person in my life despite only knowing him for a few years. My memories begin with him, and my perspective about life, the universe, and everything stems from him
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