“Partin was a big tough-looking man with an extensive criminal record as a youth. Hoffa misjudged the man and thought that because he was big and tough and had a criminal record and was out on bail and was from Louisiana, the home states of Carlos Marcello, the man must have been a guy who paints houses.”Charles Brant and Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran in Frank’s 2014 memoir,“I Heard You Paint Houses,” a reference to mafia lingo for a hitman who paints the walls of a house red with splattered blood.
Wendy was on my mind, and I opened a file on my phone about Wendy and me, a 1976 family court record from the East Baton Rouge Parish 19th Judicial District, the first record I have of the two of us together, and the last one with my dad. Interestingly, it doesn’t mention any of my dad’s family, though they were in the news almost weekly back then, because that’s just after Jimmy Hoffa vanished. As with all of my family history, I don’t look at it often, but when I do I learn something new every time, probably because I’m looking at it with older and more experienced eyes and with a deeper, more personalized interest than the FBI agents, invetigative reporters, and congressional comittees who still dig thorugh the records.
I’m continuosly amazed that so much of my family history is online for anyone to read, available to anyone who knows how to search our names together and put together patterns when names change due to marriage. My mom was Wendy Anne Rothdram Partin, My dad is Edward Grady Partin Junior, and my I’m Jason Ian Partin. If you looked up my name, not knowing the links to my family, you’d see that I wasn’t on social media, just Linkedin, and that I had a handful of patents for medical devices listed by the USPTO, inconsistently grouped with or without my middle name. That began after the 1996 law that made provisional patents affordable to budding inventors, only $100 to file an unreviewed provisional and a year to follow up for a more expensive, reviewed patent after I raised money from investors to form companies; those companies owned the patents, but I’m still listed as the inventor, as either Jason Partin or Jason Ian Partin. Not much is recorded after 2010, when I semi-retired and stopped submitting patents, around the time I began leading classes at a few universities and traveling more extensively.
You may dig deeper and learn that I was a veteran of the 1990-1991 Gulf war, a paratrooper on the quick reaction force of Presidents Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton, and held a diplomatic passport as a communications laison in a Middle East coalition that had been formed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and housed in a military base in Sinai, Egypt, not far from where Moses allegedly saw the burning bush. It’s still there – the base, not the burning bush – despite being a temporary solution in 1979, just like Guantamano had been in 2005 or before, if that helps explain my passive interest in long-term follow-though of presidential decisions and obscure military bases on foreign soil.
If you were interested in my more recent carreer, not the ancient past, you’d see a few start up companies founded under my name in the early 2000’s and a couple of adjunct roles in universities and nonprofit organizations since then, including some that facilitate entrepreneurship practice in socioeconomically diverse public schools. But, it’s unlikely you’d know enough about my family to connect the dots using other people’s names, especially because, by now, Edward Grady Partin is no longer a household name associated with Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy. And you’d almost never discover that I was ocassionally a performer at Hollywood’s Magic Castle, and that’s intentional on my part. Some things are best kept secret, like in the book Lee Harvey Oswald carried around, The Catcher in the Rye, where the teenage protagonist ate apple pie every day even though he hated apple pie, just to have a solitary secret kept from his therapists at the mental hospital, no matter how obscure the secret. I am a magician, an old childhood hobby that I still enjoy, but only friends and family know that, because I often don’t use my real name to perform. To me, it’s not lying if you use a stage name. It would be funny if you’ve seen me perform at the Castle or at a fund raiser or corporate event somewhere, but didn’t remember my stage name. For the record, I stoped using my childhood stage name, Magic Ian, a pun on my middle name forming magician; and only close friends call me Magik today, and I change my stage name ocassionally just for autonomy, like changing your online passwords every now and then helps protect your personal information.
I’m not related to the several hundred Jason Partin’s I found online recently; at least, not to my knowledge. But I recently watched a Youtube of the Jason Partin MMA fighter and we coincidentally look somewhat similar, though I’m about fifteen years older and already have grey hair. I’m a first cousin of the NFL’s Jason Partin, the one from Zachary, Louisiana, who is Big Daddy’s nephew and my age, though we look nothing alike because Jason took after Big Daddy’s side of the family, with strawberry blonde hair and bright blue eyes, and has no relation to Mamma Jean. I took after her side of the family, with auburn hair and dark brown eyes; though my hair leaned towards red after a summer in the sun, and, unlike Jason’s, it turned grey in my early 40’s, just like my dad’s and Big Daddy’s had. I don’t know which hair gene Jason received that I did not, or vice versa. I hope neither of us are related to several of the Jason Partins who have a lot to say on social media or had criminal records published by newspapers for a wide range of offenses. But, given our family history, it’s not unrealistic that we share some genes that lead to strong opinions and criminal behavior in anyone related to Big Daddy.
I have no criminal records, unless you count an excessive library fine in 1985 for 5 cents a day times thirty days a month times the two months I was visiting my dad in Arkansas on one of my first sabaticals. His court records are extensive and begin around my custody trial and probably continue to this day, especially because after he got out of prison in 1987 he became a public defense attorney based in Slaughter, Louisiana; humorously named when you consider it borders Saint Francisville. The Slaughter – St. Francis joke was a favorite of Wendy’s, though she hadn’t had contact with my dad since the 80’s, becasue, as she repeated, knowing the Partins had warped her. I’m unquestionably his son: Mamma Jean’s eyes are distinctive, and there’s no doubt which of my cousins inherited some of Mamma Jean’s genes. I have Big Daddy’s chin and a few cheek features that make it seem like I’m smiling, even when I’m not, but because few people identify smiles as inheritied, no one seemed to notice and ust assumed I was a happy kid. Usualy, they were right, and not much in my memoir would be shocking as having overcome a lot to be happy, becasue, for whatever reason, I had inherited or received something that seemed to make me cheerier than most of either side of my family.
A lot of my Partin family history has been removed from court records and police evidince rooms over the decades. To understand why and how media perception affected Wendy in the 1970’s, and how the truth may have led her to abonding my dad and me, it may be best to start wtih the 1966 supreme court case Hoffa vs. The United States, two years after Big Daddy was the surprise witness who’s sworn testimony convicted Hoffa – arguably America’s most powerful man not a Kenneyd back then, and definitely one of the most recognized names in America – of jury tampering in the Test Fleet Case, a federal offense, and sentenced Hoffa to eight years in prison after a decade long and highly publicized battle with Bobby Kennedy and the FBI’s Get Hoffa task force, dubbed “The Blood Feud” by national media because Hoffa and Bobby hated each other so viscerally and publicly. Hoffa called Bobby “Booby” and “spoiled little brat” in press converances, and Bobby shot back attacking Hoffa’s character. The two even came to blows at least once, and Bobby was ridiculed by national media for leading the country’s most expensive yet fruitless FBI task force, and therefore must have obviously been appointed US Attorney General out of nepotism, not talent. For almost ten years, The Blood Feud was daily news and gossip around the water cooler or during cigarette breaks, just like any other big, gossipy news to chat about around the expresso machine or on vape breaks. Like today’s names in the headlines, posterity will probably forget them, just like most Americans eventually forgot about Edward Grady Partin Senior, unless they were in law school or earning their livelihood in the industrys of Hoffa books and films, like Marin Scorcese’s $257 Million The Irishman.
Hoffa instantly appealed with the best team of lawyers used to dealing with mafia bosses and high profile cases to find evidence against Big Daddy’s character and to fight the conviction all the way to the supreme court, where the only one of nine judges to vote against using Big Daddy’s testimony was Chief Justice Earl Warren, a forty year veteran of the supreme court and former criminal prosecutor, nationally famous for overseeing landmark cases like Roe vs Wade, Brown vs The Board of Education, and the case that gave us Miranda Rights. And, of course, overseeing the 1964 Warren Report that, after ten months of research, mistakenly or misleadingly claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot and killed President Kennedy and that Jack Ruby was unconnected to the Teamsters or mafia when he shot and killed Oswald two days later. But, no one new that back then, and Walter Sheridan of the FBI’s Get Hoffa squad and Bobby Kennedy had to project a positive image of Big Daddy to the public, potential jurors who would hear Big Daddy testify, and the U.S. Supreme Court that would eventually receive Hoffa’s appeal. Only a handful of cases makes it to the supreme court every year out of something like 60,000 submissions, and then as now many Americans followed their judgements for cases of interest, like they had with Hoffa vs The United States.
Chief Justice Earl Warren was a respected judge, and there’s no reason to assume he had all of the information necessary to make decisions, even as Chief Justie of the supreme court, and he knew that the court’s verdict would set the precedent for future cases involving government surveillance. He was right: using Big Daddy’s testimony in Hoffa vs The United States set a precident for dubious and potentially unconstitutional surveillance that has been used for almost 60 years, including by President Bush Jr.’s legal team to justify monitoring cell phone messages of millions of Americans without a warrant after 9/11 in the brilliantly marketed Patriot Act, despite Warren’s predictive warnings about using Big Daddy as a witness in 1966. Warren wrote a missive permanently attached to Hoffa vs The United States for posterity to read and ponder, and the case is still reviewed by most reputable law schools today. For me, it explains why surprisingly little is documented about Big Daddy’s criminal history outside of brief mentions in supreme court records and books, and why even Wikipedia still tells the same old story about him that hasn’t changed much since I was born, even though presumably anyone can edit Wikipedia if they cite facts, like supreme court records or the JFK Assassination Report in archive.gov; I don’t know why no one has been able to update Wikipedia when so much is available online.
“Here,” Warren wrote in Hoffa vs The United States, “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.”
“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 Partin, 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 Partin, who was the principal government witness, there would probably have been no convictions here.”
“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. 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.”
One line always jumps out, that the supreme court knew Big Daddy was a criminal, incentivised to lie, and was facing indictment for perjury; yet they allowed his testimony to be the primary reason to convict Hoffa. I can understand why Warren seemed frustrated and wanted to document his thoughts for America’s posterity: it’s seems ludacris to send someone to prison based on the word of a man known to perjure; but, I’m not even nearly as educated as the supreme court judges, so I may not see what they saw, or have known the people convinced that Hoffa was guilty. Warren died in 1974, before seeing the 1979 JFK Assassination Report that overrode his conclusions in the 1964 Warren Report, but I can’t imagine what he’d about that, or what he’d think about President Bush Sr. using Big Daddy’s testimony in Hoffa vs The United States to justify listening to millions of Americans in the Patriot Act. But, reading his history and sharp, saterical tone in cases like Hoffa vs The United States, where he’s not reticent about calling Big Daddy “a jailbird, languishing in a Louisiana jail,” and who blatently shines a light into the blind eyes of justice by highlighting Big Daddy’s perjury charges and warning posterity that “the Government paid an enormous price.” It would turn out that other witnesses slipped out that Hoffa had, indeed, been asking his men to bribe jurors in the Test Fleet Case, but that was never Warren’s point, which was more focused on the system that allows unreliable witnesses than one specific case that had reached the supreme court for reasons bigger than Big Daddy’s incentives to lie about Hoffa.
Warren even mentioned Mamma Jean, though not accurately.
“Upon his arrival in Nashville, Partin 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,” Partin became the equivalent of a bugging device which moved with Hoffa wherever he went. Everything Partin 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.”
I’m unsure why the other surpreme court justices allowed Big Daddy’s testimony, or how, exactly, allowing it in Hoffa vs. The United States helped justify cell phone monitoring in the Patriot Act, maybe because I never attended law school and wasn’t invited to President Bush Jr.’s meetings. I had, incidentally, been given permission by his dad in 1992 to kill unarmed civilians in Haiti, just like everyone in my battallion of the 82nd Airborne, though that mission was cut short in mid air; but, I had never been invited to that Bush’s meetings, either, and don’t know what he thought about Big Daddy’s testimony against Hoffa, or about using it to justify aspects of the Patriot Act. Regardless, reading the 1966 Hoffa vs The United States case helps me empathize with Wendy by giving me facts and context of what she would have been experiencing back then, and why Big Daddy and the Partin family’s history may have been hidden from her when she met my dad in 1971.
Hoffa was furious that Big Daddy had betrayed him, and his team of lawyers spent years trying to disprove his character and therefore have the case thrown out of court. Some things couldn’t be hidden, especially becaause so many people in the Teamsters already knew Big Daddy and not only knew his criminal history, but relished in it the same way people adored Jimmy Hoffa for being a rough guy who could buck the system and get things done for the working class. But, that was mostly in Louisiana, and some people believe that US Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and the FBI’s Get Hoffa squad modified court records and portrayed the Partins favorably in national media to ensure their conviction against Hoffa would stand. Warren commented on this, too, adding, “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.”
That’s why most of Big Daddy’s criminal records have, as Warren said, “apparently vanished into thin air.” But, a lot was known verbally and couldn’t disappear, and Hoffa and his team focused on that. In 1975, after being pardoned from prison by Nixon and vying for reinstatement as Teamster president, Hoffa had this to say about Big Daddy in his book, “Hoffa on Hoffa”:
“Let’s take a look at this “all-American boy” and his record, which was carefully kept from the jury by Judge Wilson and the government.
In December, 1943, he was arrested in the state of Washington for breaking and entering. Pleading guildy, he was senteneded to fifteen years in the state penitentiary, from which he escaped twice.
Freed, he joined the Marine Corps and was dishonorably discharged. He had been accused of raping a young black girl.
Becoming head of the Teamster local in Baton Rouge, he was charged by certain members with embezzling $1600 in union funds and he had been indicted on thirteen counts of falsifying records and thirteen counts of embezzlement.
While out on fifty thougsand dollars’ bond, he had been indicted in Alamama in Septermber of 1962 on charges of first-degree manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident.
One day beofe the Alambama incictment, he surrendered on September 25th, 1962, to Louisiana authorities on a kidnaping charge, the “minor domestic problem” to which Life magazine had referred. He had assisted a friend in snatching the friend’s two smallc hildren from teh friend’s wife, who had leagal custody of the children.”
Walter Sheridan, head of the FBI Get Hoffa Squad and eventual invetigative journalist for NBC, agreed, in general, with Hoffa in Walter’s 1972 book, “The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa,” coincidentally released the month I was born. Walter had to consent to some of his star witness’s crimes that had been circulated in six years of “Free Hoffa” campaigns. He, too, mentions Mamma Jean, if you look for it, in a much different context than Earl Warren had, but just as innaccurate.
“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.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. 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.”
Momma Jean was not quiet. She maintained her silence around reporters, FBI agents, the FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, Teamsters, Mob hitmen, and almost anyone who asked her about Big Daddy. She would quote Jesus in Matthew 5:37, “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” But she was not quiet. Mamma Jean had a lot to say about most things, and was known to invite door-to-door evangelicals inside to teach them a thing or two about the bible and serve them oatmeal cookies, if she had baked some recently. She was especially enthusiastic about inviting in the pairs of evangelicals who knocked on her door wearing black suits and ties, like Hoover’s FBI agents in the parodied “Men in Black” series, because they were either agents, Mormons, or Jejova Witnesses, and all were invited into Mamma Jean’s home to hear her talk their ears off about what’s written in the New Testament and the proper way to bread and fry catfish.
That’s not family lore: that’s a fact stronger than most things I’ve seen pass as evidence in court reports.
But, even Hoffa and Walter missed a few points in their summaries of Big Daddy’s history prior to his seeming immunity after testifying against Hoffa, things that where hidden from the public yet lingered in family lore. For example, from what I remember being told, Big Daddy wasn’t discharged for stealing a watch. He had joined the marines at 17 years old in lieu of going to jail for stealing all the guns in Woodville Mississippi with his little brother, Uncle Doug, during WWII. The guns were discovered in their shotgun shack, a reference to the architecture, not the contents, and Big Daddy and his little brother, Doug, were arested. The judge let young Doug go, and gave Big Daddy a chioce between a year in juvenile jail or joining the marines. He joined. Within two weeks, he had punched out a captain and had, as salt in the wound, removed the unconscious captain’s watch. To avoid embarassment, the captain filed charges for theft, and two weeks after Big Daddy had gotten out of jail for stealing guns he was, ironically, released from the marines for allegedly stealing a watch. Doug says he planned on hitting an officer all along. Feeling invincible, he had gone on to rape a girl in a shotgun shack down the street from him in Woodville, but was found not guilty because one juror would not vote guilty, saying “ain’t no white man need to go to jail for nothin’ he did to a black girl.”
There’s no record of those things, but if you knew Big Daddy like I did and saw him smile and never deny Doug’s storeis, then you’d proably believe Doug over Hoffa or Walter. What’s agreed upon is that after the marines, Big Daddy took over the Woodville sawmill union and the trucking union that delivered uncut timber and carried away cut lumber, and he began growing his influence through ways that would impress even the notoriously ruthless Jimmy Hoffa. As Mamma Jean’s letter mentioned, Big Daddy eventually took a position over the Baton Rouge Teamsters Local #5, and as Walter said, began helping Hoffa “forcibly” install his men into other leadership positions.
I don’t know what men like Walter and Hoffa consider “forcibly,” but I assume it wasn’t subtle and that most of us can imagine what it could look like. What’s not written, and what Mamma Jean hadn’t gotten to in her letter yet, but was family lore, by 1961 Mamma Jean had learned more and more what “forcibly” meant, and she fled Big Daddy with thier five children and hid each of them in with her relatives in hunting and fishing camps thoughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. After Big Daddy was freed from prison and agreed to help Bobby Kennedy in 1962, Walter located Momma Jean and my aunts and uncle and dad – he was an FBI agent, after all – and Walter told her the government would buy her a home and pay her a living wage as long as she remained silent, and for reasons I don’t understand Big Daddy and the Partin family were showcased nationally in magazines like Look! and Life as an All American family, saying that Big Daddy was a hero because risked his life to help Bobby Kennedy stop union corruption; and, according to a surprise in Time, that he and J. Edgar Hoover had thwarted Hoffa’s attempt to kill Bobby Kennedy by tossing plastic explosives into his home, risking his children. Life featured Big Daddy again in 1968, exposing the newly recognized threat of organized crime in America, the mafia, and Life showed Big Daddy standing up to New Orleans mafia boss Carlos Marcello’s efforts to have Hoffa’s conviction reversed.
As I mentioned, Momma Jean was a devout Christian who attended church weekly and no one, including me, would ever suspect her of lying or bearing false witness; but, being Ed Partin’s wife meant she would be legally free to not testify – American law protects spouses from testifying – and she’d maintain her silence until 1996, saying it wasn’t wrong because she had to care for her children and The Lord works in mysterious ways. She had used the government money to support her children, open a hair salon in her garage, and help her church publish and sell cookbooks as fundraisers in Houston; in a way, she was the first entrepreneur I knew, and her initial investments just happened to be from taxpayers. Around the time I was born, Mamma Jean was earning her livelihood working from her home in Houston and supporting four teenage children. My dad, 17 years old and the second oldest of her children, was the defiant one who left Hoston to live in Baton Rouge with Grandma Foster, and why Mamma Jean hadn’t met Wendy yet. I don’t know what she would have told Wendy back then.
Wendy and my dad had quit school and eloped to Woodville, Mississippi, where my dad still had family and state laws didn’t require a 16 year old girl to have parental consent to marry. They returned as Mr. and Mrs. Edward Grady Partin and moved into one of Big Daddy’s many homes, one near the murky Comite River and expansive and undeveloped Achafalaya Basin, possibly one of the houses that had walls stuffed with cash and plastic explosives. As Wendy learned more about her new family, local news painted a different picture than national headlines, including that Big Daddy kept plastic explosives in his home, allegedly as part of Jimmy Hoffa’s plot to kill Bobby Kennedy that Big Daddy was an American Hero for thwarting, and Life magazine posted that leaked evidence after Big Daddy had testified, and Life quoted J. Edgar Hoover’s endorsement of Big Daddy and even showed America Hoover’s newly funded FBI agents in white lab coats using an expensive and futuristic looking polygraph machine to test if Big Daddy was lying. He passed, though he would admit to family that it’s easy to defeat a lie detector test if you pay attention to your breathing and pusle rate; conversely, several Baton Rouge Partin homes blew up in the 60’s and 70’s, so there’s not telling what the truth was. I’m comfortable going with plastic explosives in our walls, C4, especially knowing that C4 doesn’t easily explode unless fire is combined with pressure, so it wouldn’t have been as unsafe as it sounds. Big Daddy wasn’t so irresponsible as to keep more volitile explosives at home, probably.
Most of America knew Life magazine’s version of the Partin family, hard working and heros, with photos of all of my aunts and uncle and dad being happy kids with Big Daddy, and no one seemed to notice that all magazines and news reports were remarkably free from photos or quotes from Mamma Jean. But, living in Baton Rouge and in one of Big Daddy’s houses, Wendy would have quickly learned that her father in law was not above rape, murder, stealing, lying, and kidnapping a kid if he disagreed with a custody ruling, or other threatening allusions that people in Baton Rouge knew more about or suspected, and gossipped about whenever they met Wendy Anne Rothdram Partin and her little brother, Jason Partin, maybe even confusing me with my better known first cousin, Jason Partin, son of the well known and popular Zachary High School football coach, Big Daddy’s brother, Joe Partin. Regardless of who they thought we were, there weren’t many Partins in Baton Rouge and we were all related to Big Daddy, and everyone seemed to have an opinion about him, Hoffa’s inprisonment and eventual disappearance, Audie Murphy’s death, and President Kennedy’s assassination.
Big Daddy was one of the few people indicted by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, famous for leading the only trial for Kennedy’s murder and the first to claim FBI or CIA assistance in Kennedy’s assassination. As long ago as 1964, Garrioson claimed to have witnesses who had seen Big Daddy with Oswald and Ruby, including someone who had a photograph of Big Daddy meeting Ruby, taken about a month before the assassination. Both witnesses and the photo vanished and have never been found, and Big Daddy was omitted from the trial and Garisons book, JFK, that would become the basis for 1992’s Oliver Stone film, JFK, which, of course, prompted the public to demand that presidential incumbent Bill Clinton release the congressional JFK Assassination report that had remained hidden since 1979. There was more to it than Garrison’s vendetta against Big Daddy and Walter Sheridan: it turns out that Oswald had been in Baton Rouge under the alias Harvey Lee, training in the civil air force near Grandma Foster and Granny’s homes, where Wendy and my dad had met, and Jack Ruby was, in fact, an associate of both the mafia and Big Daddy and Hoffa, even calling Hoffa in the months before Kennedy’s murder. There’s a lot of similar stuff in the almost overwhelming amount of information, not all factual, in the JFK Assasssination Report; but, even without having read the concealed reports leading up to it, Wendy would have been terrified of her new family.
Just before I was conceived, Big Daddy had been arrrested for stealing $450,000 from the Local #5 safe, a ridiculous amount of money back then, especially to be kept in cash in a local Teamster office. But, the two witnesses were found beaten and bloody and the survivor refused to testify. The safe was found at the bottom of a murkey river not too far from one of Big Daddy’s homes, the one Wendy and I would eventually live in, empty and without fingerprints. Obviously, I hope, having a labor leader like that would have been local news. Interestingly, the incident with the safe is one of the most persistent bits about Big Daddy on Wikipedia, probably because it sums up his history so concisely and was just around the time when Nixon pardoned Hoffa and Big Daddy’s records stopped vanishing into thin air; and that stolen $450,000 is what would eventually send him to prison in 1980, after Hoffa was pronounced dead and Big Daddy had exhausted all of his appeals. His case never made it to the supreme court, but is still in Louisiana records, and that may be why it’s so persistent on Wikipedia.
Big Daddy and his Teamsters were also shocased in Louisiana news for shootouts and deaths at local manufacturing plants that had refused to use Teamster labor. And though never convicted, men loyal to Big Daddy were arrested for murdering managers at the Plaquimine Concrete Company across the river from Baton Rouge, and newspapers described them as big, burly, rough men on Big Daddy’s payroll for nothing other than intimidation and extorsion and, presumably, murder. One from a New Orleans newspaper on 25 June 1971, said this:
Burly Wade McClanahan, a 36 year old “strong arm” and trusted lieutenant of Edward Grady Partin, says he shot a construction worker at Plaquemine on orders of Partin, a Louisiana Teamsters Union official.
The 36-year-old McClanahan, 6-feet-4 and .250 pounds, told a federal court jury he shot and wounded ,W. 0. Bergeron, a contractor doing business with a competitor of convicted conspirator Ted-F. Dithham Jr., after Partin instructed him to create a disturbance at Bergeron’s job site.’
McClanahan, charged with criminal conspiracy, described himself as a “trusted lieutenant Of Partin” and testified about beatings, shootings, sabotage’ and other means of “solving problems” for Partin.
McClanahan said he and the late Jerry Sylvester led an armed attack on the Plaquemine construction site. He said both men were members of Local 5 in Baton Rouge, paid dues, but had no duties other than strong-arm jobs as needed and ordered by Partin.
I don’t know what happened to Jerry Sylvester. But, as I mentioned, family lore is that no one spoke ill of Big Daddy and lived. I never followed through with “Burly Wade McClanahan,” so I don’t know what happened to him, either. The Plaquemine incident involved several truckloads of armed men, Big Daddy’s Teamsters against a building full of hired mafia gunmen, and it was daily news in Louisiana for a long time, especially as nothing criminal stuck to Big Daddy despite Governor McKeithen promising to stop him. Over time, people forgot the Plaquemine incident, and almost all businesses seemed to use Teamster union labor, probably because that seemed wiser than the alternatives.
In 1971, Big Daddy was also a suspect in killing one of America’s most celebrated movie stars, Audie Murphy, who was also America’s most decorated war hero from WWII. Audie was so well known that he had audiences with Hoffa in prison and presidential candidate Richard Nixon at his private home an hour south of Hollywood, and was flying to and from Baton Rouge in a small private plane to meet with Big Daddy and negotiate a presidentaial pardon if Big Daddy recanted his testimony – admitted perjury – or testified that Walter Sheridan’s team had used illegal recorded surveillance to plan their prosecution. When Audie’s plane crashed in Virginia, many reporters and mafia leaders assumed Big Daddy had been involved. History would show he wasn’t, it had been pilot error that killed Audie and all foru passengers, but Big Daddy never denied anything and probably enjoyed the mystique bestowed upon him for killing a man with 278 confirmed kills in WWII. Even mafia hitmen respected Audie’s number of hits, and presumably they’d respect the man with enough courage to kill America’s most decorated war hero: of course Big Daddy wouldn’t have denied it. Audie’s negotiating with Big Daddy took up almost a full chapter of Walter’s book, though Walter’s intention seemed to be continuing to project Big Daddy as a reliable witness and accusing Hoffa and Nixon of manipulating democracy via Audie, who had just filed bankruptcy and presumably would receive financing for more movie deals if he could convince Big Daddy to free Hoffa. Walter was, in my opinion, so focused on Hoffa and this one incident of hero worship meddling with democracy that he missed the bigger picture of how to improve democracy, regardless of who’s influencing it. But, he was pressed for time by his book deal, and ended his book soon after Audie died and a month before I was born.
For the six years Hoffa was in prison, the mafia tried to influence Big Daddy into changing his testimony or signing an affadavit that Hoffa’s prosecutors had used illegal wire tapping and surveillance. For Hoffa to be free, he needed Big Daddy alive. During his appeals, he had offered $100,000 to anyone who could discredit Big Daddy’s character. From prison, he sent word via his attorneys, most notably Ramano, an attorney for the mob, that he would forgive all debts owed to him by mafia families debts if Big Daddy recanted or signed an affadavit. That was about $120 Million, a huge sum of money back then, lent from the Teamster pension fund to build Las Vegas Casinos and hotels in cities like New Orleans and Chicago, and, interestingly, Hollywood films like the forty or so staring Audie Murphy. That was a lot of money back then, and every low level mafia hitman were promised rewards if they could intimidate Big Daddy, men not unlike Jack Ruby, perhaps no more than patsies, and just dumb enough to try winning the mafia’s lottery by influencing Big Daddy. Local news covered the attempts frequently, national only occassionally, and most of my family recalls Big Daddy coming home with gun and knife wounds and other people’s blood on him. When he couldn’t be intimidated, low level mafia began targetting anyone named Partin in Baton Rouge, blowing up homes of Uncle Doug and Cousin Don, and, according to Uncle Doug, “beating the shit” out of him; that’s part of the reason Bobby Kennedy oversaw buying Mamma Jean a house in Houston, away from Baton Rouge, and why FBI director J. Edgar Hoover assigned extra federal marshalls to follow the Partin family as protection. I don’t know if they followed Wendy, but of course I recall dozens of men around town in black suits; for a while, we lived near the state capital and that’s how lots of legislatures and lawyers dressed, and Wendy was an attractive young lady and lots of people would chat with her when she was talking me to and from court.
All of that was in the news back then, even the parts about extra federal marshals, but Wendy was like most 16 year old girls and rarely read the news or would understand the bigger picture if she did. Even if she had heard local rumers, mainstream national media continued to portray Big Daddy as an All American hero being nipped at in the ankles by pro-Hoffa people, and that’s probably the impression she had without articulating it, especially with everything she had going on. She probably wouldn’t have asked why my dad didn’t move to Houston with Mamma Jean and instead chose to live with his grandmother, Grandma Foster, a few blocks from Wendy’s mom, Granny, near the Baton Rouge airport and Glen Oaks High School, where my dad went to school with her.
Wendy’s history is interesting, too, beginning with her mother, and what led to Wendy to losing her virginity to Ed Partin Jr. around the time as Audie Murphy had left Baton Rouge for the last time.
Granny was a single, hard working mom who had scrimped and saved working at CoPolymer, about twenty miles north of the airport along Chemical Alley, and bought a small, 680 square foot home under the flight path, which is what she could afford on a secretary’s salary in the mid 1960’s. Granny had fled an abusive husband in Candada in 1960, a man whom I met once but don’t recall his first name. Like my mom would do wiht my dad, Granny hastily married the man named Rothdram and soon realized her mistake, and in a way prophetic of Wendy’s future, would leave her parents in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill and try to raise her child as a single mother in Baton Rouge, Loiusiana, where her sister and brother in law had just settled.
Granny was Joyce Hicks Rothdram, and you may have heard of her father, Grandpa Harold Hicks, because he was a respectable professional hockey player for the Toronoto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and a few other teams; and, according to Wikipedia, he left hockey and eventually retired as a quiet manager for the Canadian Railway system, with a full pension and an unblemished record. There was no animosity between Granny and Grandpa Hicks or her Canadian relatives, and I never learned why she chose Baton Rouge. I suspecdt it was because Auntie Lo and Uncle Bob couldn’t have children and had a relatively large, suburban house near Sherwood Forest Country club and in a good school district for Wendy, and were willing to open a couple of bedrooms for her while she looked for work. Wendy grew up in Baton Rouge with Canadian relatives, and Auntie Lo and Granny had a few hockey jersey’s around their houses, so she retained her accent and would likely imagine that famous grandfathers were fun, and she probably assumed that Big Daddy was no different.
When Granny fled, she and Wendy lived with Auntie Lo and Uncle Bob in their Baton Rouge suburban home until Granny saved enough to buy her home near the airport. Wendy, feeling angst and not fitting into southern culture, dated an older boy who graduated from Glen Oaks High School in May of 1971 without plans for college and was immediately drafted; he was shot and killed by the Vietcong in the summer of 1971, a few weeks after his first duty assignment in Vietnam, coincidentally around the time Audie Murphy’s plane was crashing after having met with Big Daddy. Wendy was distraught at the loss of her boyfriend and felt overwhelmed and demaned to return to Candada and live with her father, where she imagined fitting in better and being happier. Granny, a practical woman of few words, bought her a plan ticket and let her hear from her father, and he told Wendy he had a new family and didn’t want her there. She quickly returned to Baton Rouge, distraught and saddened by her boyfriend’s death and father’s refusal, and met my dad, the drug dealer of Glen Oaks High School, who had just moved in with Grandma Foster in a home about five blocks from Granny and had nice new sports cars and bags of weed to share. Wendy got high with him and lost her virginity and discoverd she was pregnant less than two weeks later. She couldn’t afford the $150 or so for an abortion, so she accepted my dad’s marriage proposal, eloped with him, and returned to live in one of Big Daddy’s houses.
Nine months later, as Judge Lottingger would soon write, I entered the story. By that time, from my Canadian family’s perspective, Wendy had vanished then got pregnant and dropped out of school and married someone that they did not approve of. There wasn’t much to be done at that point. Wendy said they abandened her, but I never learned a consistent, concrete version from everyone, probably becasue memories are flawed and emotions often drive decisions regardless of logic and without us realizing it. But it’s safe to say that they were upset and disliked Ed Partin Jr. and Sr., which would make sense, but that Wendy overreacted and isolated herself from them and they wouldn’t hear from her for months at a time. In my almost fifty years of experience with Wendy, that seems likely.
What happened next is covered by Judge JJ Lottingger in my court custody records. Judge Lottingger was a 30 year veteran of the Louisiana legistature and had spent almost twenty years helping governors try to prosecute Big Daddy, similar to how Bobby Kennedy had helped President Kennedy prosecute Hoffa. They would have known each other well, because the Louisiana state capital and lesislature buildings are in Baton Rouge, not to far from Local #5 headquarters, and one of Lottingger’s governors, McKeithen, had a long standing feud with Big Daddy and would frequently be quoted in state newspapers for saying things like, “I won’t allow Edward Patin and his hoodlum Teamsters to run this state!” after the Plaquemine incident, and for being rebuked publicly by Walter Sheridan, who told McKeithen to, “Lay off Partin,” presumably to keep Hoffa in prison. When Lottingger assumed the role of family court judge in 1975, Hoffa had just vanished and the former judge who had orgininally removed me from Partin custody, Judge Pugh, had alleggedly comitted suicide. With that background, it’s interesting to read Judge Lottingger’s report and notice how little he says about Big Daddy or my dad, in 1976’s Partin vs. Patin.
This is a suit by Edward Partin, Jr., plaintiff, seeking a divorce from his wife, Wendy Rothdram Partin, defendant, after having lived separate and apart for more than one year following a judgment of separation from bed and board. Plaintiff also seeks custody of the minor child, Jason Ian Partin, and the defendant reconvened asking that she be granted the permanent care, custody and control of the minor child.
The Trial Court had previously, by ex parte order, awarded the temporary care, custody and control of the minor to Mr. and Mrs. James Ed White. Following trial on the merits, plaintiff was awarded a divorce as well as the permanent care, custody and control of the minor child, with the temporary physical custody of the minor child to remain with Mr. and Mrs. James Ed White. The defendant has appealed this judgment as it regards the custody of the child.
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.
[Judge Lottinger wrote a paragraph of legal jargon here, citing the “double burden” placed on Wendy by the deceased Judge Pugh to go above and beyond what was typically necessary to regain custody.]
We note that the petition for separation was grounded on habitual intemperance, as well as abandonment of the husband and the minor child. There are no other grounds listed for the separation nor for custody. The petition for the separation and custody of the minor child was not contested by the defendant, and a default judgment was granted. Defendant testified in the instant proceedings that the reason she did not contest custody in the separation proceeding was that she was not financially or emotionally capable of caring for the minor, and that knowing the Whites were going to be caring for him, she knew he would be in good hands.
Though the petition for separation had as one of its allegations “habitual intemperance”, the plaintiff in the instant proceeding testified that he had never accused his wife of drinking, nor had he ever seen her drink.
[Judge Lottinger goes on to cite a few precent cases, verdicts from previous judges in higher courts used to justify his opinions, a detail that’s less important in Louisiana’s unique version of the Napoleonic legal code still lingering from the Louisiana purchase that gives judges more freedoms than in all other states.]
The welfare of the child is the main issue that the Court is concerned with. This issue is more important than any wishes or wants the parents may have. Fulco v. Fulco, 259 La. 1122, 254 So.2d 603 (1971), rehearing denied (1971). As a general rule, and in particular where children of young age are involved, preference is given to the mother in custody cases. This preference is very simply explained, the mother is normally better able to care for the child and look after the education, rearing, and training necessary. Estes v. Estes, 261 La. 20, 258 So.2d 857 (1972), rehearing denied (1972).
No argument is made that the mother is not now morally or emotionally fit to care for the child, or that the house in which she lives is not a proper place to rear a child. In fact, the Trial Judge admitted that it was a fine home.
The Trial Judge has not favored us with written reasons for judgment, however, we must conclude from various statements by the Trial Judge that appear in the record that he could find no fault with the defendant, nor was there anything wrong with the house in which she lived. It thus becomes apparent to this Court that the Trial Judge applied the “double burden” rule to the defendant. We have already ruled that the “double burden” rule does not apply in this situation, and thus, under the established jurisprudential rules, we can see no reason why the defendant-mother should not be granted the permanent care, custody and control of the minor child with reasonable visitation privileges granted to the father.
In consideration of our above opinion, there is no need to discuss the specification of error as to the ex parte granting of custody to the Whites.
Therefore, for the above and foregoing reasons, the judgment of the Trial Court is reversed, and IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the defendant-appellant, Wendy Rothdram Partin, be and she is hereby granted the permanent care, custody and control of the minor, Jason Ian Partin, and IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that this matter be and it is hereby remanded to the Trial Court for the purpose of fixing specific visitation privileges on behalf of plaintiff-appellee Edward Partin, Jr. All costs of the appeal are to be paid by plaintiff-appellee.
I would languish in the foster sytem for a few more years because of appeals from my dad and attempts by Mr. and Mrs. White, my PawPaw and MawMaw, to adopt me; but, by 1979, when Big Daddy finally went to prison, I would finally be living with Wendy after seven years of her fighting to regain me. I can’t imagine what she must have experienced as a young girl who had just lost her boyfriend to war and was rejected by her father and found herself with a small, crying baby and married to a drug dealer and discovering that the house she lived in was probably packed with explosives and that the mafia was trying to kill or inimidate anyone in Baton Rouge named Partin, that the swamps and muddy rivers around her house were riddled with safes and bloody bodies, and her father in law was known to help kidnap kids if he disagreed with a judge’s custody decision. It’s no wonder she told Judge Lottingger, “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,” and why she’d joke with me for the rest of her life that she had been born WAR and that marrying Ed Partin WARP’ed her. Like all of my mom’s humor, there was a bit of truth behind it, and over the years I learned to laugh with her, because I felt laughing together was better than the alternatives.
That day in 2019, when I was rereading my custody court report at a bar in Havana, I noticed something in my 1976 custody report for the first time, that “Though the petition for separation had as one of its allegations “habitual intemperance”, the plaintiff in the instant proceeding testified that he had never accused his wife of drinking, nor had he ever seen her drink.“
It was probably true, if you quantify “drink” with “get drunk” as opposed to have a drink or two. Wendy hadn’t started getting drunk until about ten or twelve years before, when she accepted an early retirement offer from Exxon Plastics and designed her ideal retirement home in Saint Francisville. By then, all of our Canadian family had long since died, and Wendy didn’t have any family left in America, and by no means would she want to reach out to the Partins, several of whom were still involved the Baton Rouge Teamsters, and she drank out of boredom and depression, which increased her depression and deepened the rut she had fallen into. I had forgotten that her drinking was relatively new, because I was so used to her being sloppy drunk and slurring words by every afternoon, and over time I didn’t realize that my memory was mostly of her drinking and not of the Wendy who had fought the Partins and raised me.
Another reason we had lost contact was my traveling. I had gone on some type of sabatical every year for almost thirty years, with longer trips since retiring, and when you’re gone from home that often it’s not fun to fly to Baton Rouge, rent a car, and drive an hour and a half to Saint Francisville to watch your mother slur her words by 4pm every day and pass out by 8 or 9 pm and repeat the cycle daily. Telephones weren’t much better. She had poor reception on her cell phone, and when she was near her land line there was a two hour time zone difference between Saint Francisville and San Diego, and by the time I was available to chat it was nighttime for Wendy, and the conversations never went well.
I tried no to judge, because if anyone earned the right to take a drink after surviving the Partins it was Wendy Anne Rothdram. They had, after all, warped her. But, it wad been difficult to mainatain our relationship when she drank daily, and I hadn’t known what to do about it. And, as I mentioned, Wendy and I had a different, atypical, and unique relationship that was more like friends from childhood or siblings than what many people imagine a mom and son, perhaps with frequent calls and cards and visists and loving words. We loved each other, but our words were more likely to be quick jokes and puns rather than words of affirmation that, perhaps, Wendy could have used more often, especially after all she had been through.
Though I was worried about Wendy, I was smiling, happy to have had a month in Cuba, darkly tanned and strong from rock climbing and hiking and diving, and anxious to get home to San Diego; it’s nice to love where you live, and no matter how much fun I had traveling, I always looked forward to returning to San Diego and the people I loved. I knew I could fly home and see Wendy more often than I did, but it had been 25 years since I moved away, and just like Wendy had lived away from her Canadian family for so long that she viewed Louisiana as home and rarely visited family, I viewed San Diego as home and rarely visited family, and I was happy at that moment putting aside my family history and ordering another Hemmingway daquiri.
I was my mother’s son, after all.
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