Before the pandemic, I was writing a memoir about my time in high school. It began:
“The two FBI agents at my grandfather’s funeral asked us what we knew about the president’s assassination, and where Hoffa was buried.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had been trying to prove my grandfather’s involvement in Kennedy’s assassination for three decades, and after his testimony sent Jimmy Hoffa to prison for eight years, Hoffa had said, “Edward Grady Partin was a big, rough man who could charm a snake off a rock.” Hoffa disappeared and was presumed dead a few months after saying that.
President Johnson, the former vice president of President Kennedy, reviewed the 888 page report on his predecessor’s murder. That report is still being released publicly, and even as recently as 2019 President Trump chose to keep a small percentage private, out of public access.
In 1990, the lead investigator for that report called Aunt Janice every day to ask if her father, Ed Partin, was admitting anything. He hand’t told us anything that isn’t now public, though his wife, our Mamma Jean, verified some theories about his role in Kennedy’s death and deals with Fidel Castro before the Cuban Missile Crisis.
We called Ed Partin Big Daddy. He and Hoffa and at least one other Teamster planned to assassinate U.S. Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy. Even the director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover knew that in 1962. He personally oversaw Big Daddy’s lie detector test. But it wasn’t Bobby who was shot and killed in 1964, it was his big brother, President John F. Kennedy.
The congressional committee, called the Warren Commission, was tasked to solve the president’s murder noted similarities between the FBI investigation on Hoffa and the real life shooting of the president. Their overwhelmingly long and tedious report contradicted the summary given to news media, unsurprisingly relatable to every modern scandal about a president or possible injustices committed by powerful people. Their findings, which are now 98 to 99% available on the internet, said that there was a conspiracy, and that my grandfather and Jimmy Hoffa were likely behind the scenes.
I copied the paragraphs of the 888 page report about Partin and Hoffa, and how they orgignally planned to assassinate Bobby Kennedy using the methods of Lee Harvey Oswald on President John Kennedy.
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.
… [paragraph omitted]
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.
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.
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.
Of course, everyone knew that Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President Kennedy with a high powered rifle, the type you’d expect an army sniper to use, even though he was a civilian. Oswald shot him in Dallas, Texas, a southern city, as President John F Kennedy rode in a convertible. And that two days after he was arrested, he was shot and killed by a man linked to Hoffa.
Bobby’s job as the Attorney General was to enforce American law within America, but even with the FBI and millions of dollars towards federal investigations he couldn’t prove that Big Daddy and Hoffa were involved in his big brother’s death. Their evidence was too circumstantial to be useful in a court of law.
They knew that Lee Harvey Oswald had trained in the Baton Rouge civil air force, near the house Big Daddy had bought for his mother, my Grandma Foster. Oswald was in Baton Rouge under the name Harvey Lee, and some people reported that Big Daddy drove Oswald an hour away to the New Orleans airport, where they have more direct flights between cities, before Oswald shot the president in Dallas.
The FBI knew that my grandfather worked closely with the Marcello crime family in New Orleans, and that they had links to Castro. And, they knew about Audie Murphy, the kid who grew up in Texas and became a famous war hero and movie star. He was a trained sniper, and friends with Hoffa and my grandfather.
Audie was unsuccessful in business, and poor in his later years despite being a national hero. He refused offers from alcohol and tobacco companies to sponsor their products – he didn’t want to be a negative influence on kids. He met Big Daddy through Hoffa, who funded Hollywood films with Teamster Union dues, and hired Teamsters to work on filming locations. They became friendly. The Wall Street Journal speculated that Audie Murphy and Ed Partin could be planning a movie together.
The didn’t know that both men were addicted to sleeping pills and speed, downers to sleep, and uppers to be alert. Amphetamines were hard to come by back then, something organized crime would be involved in. Big Daddy and Audey Murphy took a lot of amphetamines, and that can lead to delusional behavior.
The FBI never proved anything against Hoffa or Big Daddy. But Bobby knew what had happened to his big brother. He hated Hoffa, and Hoffa hated Bobby. Newspapers loved the feud, and called it The Blood Feud as the two most famous men in America increased their threats against each other.
Bobby Kennedy needed a witness to stand in front of a jury so that he could send Hoffa to prison. The jury needed to trust any witness. Big Daddy would become that witness.
During the feud, Big Daddy was arrested for unrelated kidnapping and manslaughter charges. He sat in a Baton Rouge jail cell, but was unconcerned. He had gotten out of jail many times before.
Edward Partin sent word to Bobby Kennedy, and two weeks later he was free. Someone made his kidnapping and manslaughter charges disappear, and the FBI found where Big Daddy’s wife was hiding with their children.
She was Norma Jean Partin, and we called her Momma Jean. She had fled after Big Daddy came home with dozens of thousands of dollars taped around his waist and covered in his blood. Someone had sliced through his rib cage above the cash taped around his belly. He said a deal with Castro had gone bad. She nursed him to health, then left and hid her five children among different family members throughout Louisiana and Texas. That’s how we know the rumors about Big Daddy and his deals with Fidel Castro, who dealt with Jimmy Hoffa before Big Daddy sent Hoffa to prison, were probably truthful. One of those deals had gone bad, and she realized she had to flee Big Daddy to protect her children.
The FBI found her and bought her a house. They asked her to postpone her divorce, and the federal government began sending her a $350 check each month. In the 1960’s, that, and a house, was enough for her to support her five children. She became a paid informant for the federal government, and Grandma Foster says Bobby Kennedy himself asked her to be quiet so that her oldest son could get out of jail.
Big Daddy was free, and someoneinfluenced popular magazines across America to portray him as a honest man and caring father, which he could be. Mamma Jean didn’t participate in the interviews, but Big Daddy embraced it. The lead FBI investigator said that in 30 years of dealing with behind-the-scenes deals and testimonies, everyone other than Ed Partin wanted to remain anonymous and to protect their lives. Partin was the opposite. He enjoyed the attention, and the freedom it gained him as long as he remained in the boundaries of Louisiana.
All he had to do was convince a jury to believe his word against Jimmy Hoffa’s. Or, as Mamma Jean would say, to bear false witness. The FBI helped him, and their director, J. Edgar Hoover himself, approved Patin’s lie detector tests to be released publicly, before the trial and before a jury would know they would have to chose between Hoffa’s word and Partin’s.
The photo everyone remembered in Life magazine was Big Daddy hooked up to a lie detector machine, with FBI scientists explaining the results to America. They loved the pictures of him with Aunt Janice, and with him and his five children, including my dad, atop the Baton Rouge state capital building. He’s the ideal American big, rough, handsome, charming father, and honest labor leader. They even spun his rape and manslaughter charges, and never mentioned murder accusations.
Six months later, Hoffa was on trial for bribing a juror in a previous, unrelated court case. Bribing a juror was a felony, under Bobby’s jurisdiction. When the judge asked a surprise witness to stand, Big Eddie Partin stood up. Hoffa looked down, and court transcriptions quoted him as saying, “Damn. It’s Partin.”
Later, he said he knew what was about to happen. In a flash of insight, he saw how Bobby had used Big Daddy to beat him. He spent an entire chapter of his autobiography describing how my grandfather fooled him, and how Bobby Kennedy fooled America by portraying Big Daddy differently than he really was. He wondered why people didn’t see the big picture. He had a few years in prison to think about it.
Hoffa was sentenced to prison for jury tampering by attempting to bribe a juror. Big Daddy testified that Hoffa asked him to offer a juror $25,000 to not vote guilty. That would have set Hoffa free. The jurors were shocked, because none of them had been approached. They convicted Hoffa based on Big Daddy’s word.
Hoffa proclaimed the obvious: Partin would say anything to get out of jail. And it didn’t matter if a man like Partin swore on a stack of bibles, his story was a false. Bobby Kennedy had rigged the trial, a final blow in the Blood Feud.
He fought Big Daddy’s testimony all the way to the United States Supreme Court, the final stop in America’s justice system. Hoffa demanded to understand how Partin could be considered a reliable witness. Edward Grady Partin was a criminal, and had been arrested many times for kidnapping, manslaughter, rape, and embezzlement; that part in his story had been changed for Life and Look magazines.
Hoffa lost the 1964 Supreme Court case of Hoffa vs. The United States. The nine U.S. Justices allowed Edward Grady Partin’s testimony against Hoffa. There was nothing more he could do. James “Jimmy” Hoffa was reminded about Ed Partin and Bobby Kennedy every day that he sat in his prison cell for the next five years.
Edward “Big Daddy” Partin was a free man, and returned to Baton Rouge and Teamsters Local #5, and resumed some of Hoffa’s business deals. He remained within Louisiana’s boundaries, even after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.
Over the next few years, people shot Big Daddy, and shot through Teamster’s offices. They returned fire some times, and at other times started firefights. One of our houses were blown up, and my cousins moved in with us. The FBI assigned agents to protect our family, and Big Daddy ran the Louisiana Teamsters with federal immunity until Hoffa disappeared.
Hoffa completed time in prison and disappeared soon after. He was last seen alive in 1971, the same year Audie Murphy died in a plane crash. Uncle Doug thought Big Daddy was involved, but no one can verify that. I think he’s one of the most interesting parts in this story.
Murphy was a war hero. He had joined the army at age 17, after his father had left him, and famously fought in the second world war and killed so many Germans that 40 movies were made about his exploits. He died, possibly because of Big Daddy, the same year Big Daddy’s 17 year old son met my 16 year old mother. 17 years passed, and I was 17 at Big Daddy’s funeral, and one of the last people to speak with him before he died.
He didn’t tell me anything I am not writing now, but his funeral was a turning point in my life.
I hadn’t my dad in a year or two because he had been serving a couple of years in prison, just like Big Daddy eventually did. Ironically, Big Daddy was the only family member who knew I had been emancipated at age 16 and had joined the 82nd Airborne on the army’s delayed entry program, because I had visited him a few months before he died.
The mayor finished speaking at his funeral, and reporters were asking questions. Uncle Doug saw me standing next to my dad and extended his hand and said, “I’m sorry, Ed. We’re all gonna miss your daddy.”
My dad knocked his hand away and yelled, “Fuck you Doug!” and shoved the big man into a large flower arrangement from the local Teamster’s union shaped like an 18 wheeler truck. He moved forward with a clenched fist, and two LSU football players and a few big Teamsters stopped him and drug him away. He cursed at everyone and said, “Fuck U.S. actions in Panama!” I don’t remember if the FBI agents did anything.
The 82nd had recently been shown on national news parachuting into Panama and overtaking the small country as part of the United States War on Drugs. My dad had gone to jail as part of the War on Drugs. He didn’t realize I had already joined the army, and had requested the 82nd. Ironically, Big Daddy was the only Partin who knew that, and he had died the week before.
I left Big Daddy’s funeral in 1990 and began basic training at age 17. I became one of the youngest soldiers in the first Gulf War, and received several awards. After Desert Storm, I became a paratrooper on America’s Quick Reaction Force. Eventually, I was asked to help a small team create peace in the Middle East. We didn’t succeed.
I’ve held high level security clearances and a diplomatic passport that allowed me to cross borders without a visa. I never lied on my clearances, but was never directly asked, “was your grandfather behind the scenes of President Kennedy’s murder?” If I had been asked, I would have told my best version of the truth: yes.
I only learned that in 2020, the first year of the Corona Virus, as I researched the National Archives for another reason, and stumbled across my grandfather’s name. Of course, everyone in America had seen him portrayed in Hoffa and Kennedy films for decades, but always as a big man in a small role that’s supported by a supreme court decision: his word against Hoffa’s that Hoffa asked him to bribe a juror.
That’s all I have to say about Edward Grady Partin. This work began after my mother passed away in 2019, when I no longer worried about hurting her feelings. I was writing a book about the process I went through to chose to not have children, and the consequences of those choices. In 2020, I wanted to write about the consequence of those choices as I sit alone and in quarantiene, as the last of my mother’s family alive. I wanted to help anyone struggling with whether or not to have a child make an informed choice.
I wanted to write about the people who volunteered to be in my life, and what it was like to be a foster child in state’s care, where judges decide your fate instead family members. I wanted to help anyone considering becoming a foster parent make an informed choice.
When I discovered the part about Big Daddy and President Kennedy, I was shocked. I still haven’t processed it fully, but I will. My brain hurts as age-old neurons detach, and childhood memories are proven false or viewed with new context. It’s like having evidence there is or there is not a god, and having that differ from what you believed yesterday, and it will take a while to understand how that that change in information to seep into my views and choices going forward. It definitely strengthened my conviction that no news is as reliable as first-hand accounts from people I trust.
That’s a theme in this work, if you continue reading. As I moved through the foster system, the words “mother” and “father” meant less to me than the concept of trust. My mothers and fathers were people I trusted, and sometimes those people violated my trust by lying. Nothing as shocking as bearing false witness, and sending a man to prison for something he didn’t do, but lies none the less. All lies are harmful to everyone, and I don’t believe their’s a distinction between the bible’s commandment, Big Daddy’s false witness, and the many lies I grew up with in a family centered around secrets. I would never lie to you, which is exactly what Big Daddy would have said.
Now that his story is out of the way, I can talk about choices, and growing up in foster care.
This is a work in progress, and there’s no reason to continue reading if you came upon it because of an internet search or some other reason. I appreciate all feedback to help make it entertaining and useful to as many diverse people as possible.
Go to the Table of Contents.