“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.
To understand Wendy and me and our relationship, a bit of history may help. But, this is backstory, and I read that backstory is a cardinal sin against moving a story forward; the story continues in the next chapter, after this backstory.
Anyone could put together most of my life history if they had internet access and knew my full name and my parents names: my mom was Wendy Anne Rothdram Partin, my dad is Edward Grady Partin Junior, and I’m Jason Ian Partin. Wendy wouldn’t commit suicide, but she would die from liver failure secondary to alcohol abuse soon after I arrived home from Cuba. Her obituary is now on the Baton Rouge Advocate’s web page and a few other sites, bookended by a few advertisements.
Wendy Partin Obituary
Send Flowers with ________
Wendy Rothdram Partin, a resident of St. Francisville, LA, passed way on Friday, April 5th, 2019 at the age of 63. Wendy attended Glenoaks High School in Baton Rouge, LA, and retired from Exxon Mobil. She is survived by her son, Jason Ian Partin, of San Diego, CA. She was preceded in death by her mother, Joyce Rothdram, and her aunt and uncle, Lois and Robert Desico, all of Baton Rouge, LA. During her retirement, she became a master gardener and enjoyed helping people with their lawns. She enjoyed cooking, and took food to anyone she knew who was ill or grieving. Wendy loved animals, and worked with local shelters to foster dogs until they found permanent homes. She passed away unexpectedly from liver failure. In lieu of gifts or a service, please spend time sharing what you love with your neighbor, listen to what they love, and help each other.
Published by The Advocate from Apr. 8 to Apr. 9, 2019.
To plant trees in memory, please visit ________
I have a handful of patents listed under the USPTO as both Jason Partin and Jason Ian Partin. I don’t know why. I’ve used my middle name or initial ever since reading that Jimmy Hoffa realized that some people thought other “J. Hoffa” signarures were his, he always used his middle initial and that habit, to paraphrase Hoffa, had saved his ass more than once. Even in 2019 and after dozens of patent applications, I don’t fully understand the USPTO database, logic, review process, or usefullness after AI; but, it’s been a cornerstone of American entrepreneurship ever since patents were included in the U.S. constitution, so the ideas of assigning value or giving ownership in a global society is worth pondering, especially if you’re on sabatical and in Cuba on an entrepreneurship visa.
Jason Ian Patin showed up in court documents before I knew my middle name. In Septermber of 1976, when I was about four years old, Judge JJ Lottingger of the East Baton Rouge Parish 19th judicial district had a few things to say about Wendy and me. Now that Wendy’s obituary is online with the Baton Rouge Advocate, our custody court records bookend her life, and this is what Judge Lottingger had to say in 1976:
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’d languish in the foster system for a couple of more years because of appeals and efforts of PawPaw and MawMaw to adopt me, and I’d finally live with Wendy beginning around 1979, just before Big Daddy finally went to prison, coincidentally when Carter was finalizing the Camp David accords and when the JFK Assassination Report was completed and kept secret by Carter. What’s always stuck out about my early court records, before the appeals and something I still can’t explain, is why Judge Lottingger barely mentions my dad or his family, or what had happened to the trial judge, Judge Pugh, who had handled my case for almsot four years before Lottingger took over in 1975.
Judge Pugh had allegedly committed suicide, something Wendy had always harped on, saying only someone crazy would have allowed my dad to keep custody yet place me with the Whites, and another reason I may have associated my worry with the thought of her taking her life. Suicide’s not a joke, but it was indicative of Wendy’s humor since I was a kid, laughing at what happened regardless whether or not it was funny to other people, reminiscent of the humorist author Kurt Vonnegut’s explanation of his laughter: “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” A long time ago, I learned to laugh with Wendy and enjoy the sound.
East Baton Rouge Parish had only one family judge, and when Pugh died Judge Lottingger stepped tio the role, leaving thirty years of serving governors as legal counsel in state legislature to assume the role. His office was in the state capital building, not too far from Teamsters Local #5, and I can’t imagine him not knowning who Edward Grady Partin was or realizing that Edward Grady Partin Junior was his son. By the time Lottingger took over my case, Big Daddy was a national celebrity, and Hoffa was still alive and making news again with his pardon and endorsement of President Nixon, and his revived interest in resuming control of The International Brotherhood of Teamsters. And, my dad’s arrest would have been common knowledge in Baton Rouge courthouses back then. It was a small capital city of only a hundred and fifty thousand people or so, and our economy was driven by agriculture and the Teamsters shipping goods to and from town. Ed Partin was in the news often. I’ve always assumed that Lottingger knew a lot about the Partin family, which is why he spoke so kindly of Wendy in court records and reversed Judge Pugh’s unusual decision to allow my dad to have custody on paper but to place me in physical custody of Mr. and Mrs. White, and why he may have said, “there is no need to discuss the specification of error as to the ex parte granting of custody to the Whites.” Had he known more, I’m sure he could have written a book about my custody case, and what he thought of the trial judge’s notes for posterity; but, as he said, no one knows why Judge Pugh allowed Ed Partin Junior to maintain custody of me on paper and yet assign Ed White as my legal guardian, dictating where I slept and how often I saw my parents; nor would we know why he placed “double jeopardy” on Wendy and made it challenging for her to proove herself to the courts. But, we’ll never know what Judge Pugh or Judge Lottinnger knew or imagined, but I’m pretty sure they both knew who my grandfather was.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, Big Daddy was portayed in national media as a type of hero, a working class union leader and family man who risked his life to testify against the corrupt Jimmy Hoffa and the mafia connections that were synonymous with Hoffa’s Teamsters. In a 1964 feature in Life, my entire family was showcased nationally as wholesome and cheerful, with photos of everyone smiling, and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover showed Big Daddy hooked to FBI lie detector machines and said they had been working with him for years because Hoffa had planned to kill Boby Kennedy using plastic explosives Big Daddy could alleggedly obtain from Carlos Marcello. But, as Hoffa spoke and wrote about extensively, national media like Life magazine was “Bobby’s tool” to keep Hoffa in prison. In 1962, as soon as Big Daddy stood up as the surprise witness, Hoffa said, “Damn. It’s Partin,” and offered $100,000 for anyone who could discredit Big Daddy and invalidate his testimony. He hired the best attornies in America used to working with the mafia in sensitive cases, and asked them to discredit Big Daddy, too, and they worked feverishly to discredit Big Daddy to America and thereby future jury members. Chief Justice Warren commented on this, too, in Hoffa vs. The United States, saying, “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.”
While Hoffa’s lawyers were pursuing old records, Bobby Kennedy’s Get Hoffa squad was hiding them. 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. Like Chief Justice Earl Warren, Walter also mentions Mamma Jean, though not by name for obvious reasons.
“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.”
According to family lore, Big Daddy’s dishonorable discharge was planned. He had been arrested for raping an African American girl but was found not guilty after one white male juror refused to vote guilty, saying, according to Uncle Doug, “ain’t no white man deserve to go to jail for nothin’ he did to a black girl,” but wasn’t so lucky when he and his little brother, Uncle Doug, were arrested in 1943 for stealing all the guns in Woodville, Mississippi. Back then, Big Daddy was a 17 year old boxer in the sawmill centered town of Woodville, and just after Grandpappy Partin had left him and his two little brothers with Grandma Foster, he and Doug had a plan to make money by breaking into the local Sears and Roebuck store and stealing all the rifles, shotguns, and pistols they had and selling them to someone in New Orleans. They were seen riding new motorcycles through town and the sherif found a few stolen rifles in Grandma’s coincidentally moniqured shotgun shack, and Big Daddy and Uncle Doug were arrested and found guilty. Doug was only 11 years old and was free to go, but Big Daddy was given a choice of going to juvenille jail or joining the marines. He verified the judge’s paperwork and chose to join the marines, and two weeks later, when told what to do, punched a captain in the face and knocked him out and, to add salt to the wound, removed the captain’s fancy watch from his unconscious body. The captain sheepishly reported a stolen watch rather than admit a 17 year old punched him out, and the military court found Big Daddy guilty and discharged him. Big Daddy was ironically allowed to return a free man after stealing all the guns in Woodville because he stole a watch in the miltary, proving that two wrongs may make a right in everyone’s perspective except the marine captain and the young girl who lived down the street from Grandma Foster. I doubt that Walter would have heard the story of Big Daddy’s watch, and I never learned what happened to the little girl or her family, and some stories remained in the family despite Bobby Kennedy’s effrots to expunge Big Daddy’s criminal records.
Watler was mistaken about Momma Jean: she was not quiet. Mamma Jean was one of the most outspoken and opinionated women I’ve ever known, but 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 answer the government’s most qualified interigators by quoting 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 around most people. 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 why she rarely spoke with Walter other than the bare minimum necessary to keep her family fed. That’s not family lore: that’s a fact stronger than most things I’ve seen pass as evidence in court reports. But, when Wendy met my dad, Mamma Jean was taking care of her young children in Houston and wouldn’t have known Wendy well. If she had, I suspect she would have shared more of what she knew before Wendy dropped out of school and became a Partin, and maybe they would have comenserated about Grandma Foster and the long line of single mothers on both sides of my family and the struggles they shared.
Even if Mamma Jean had been able to warn Wendy, what she would have said would seem ludacris back then and wouldn’t be known publicly for almost twenty years. The first thing that jumps to mind is Big Daddy being indicted for President Kennedy’s murder in the only court in history pursuing a conspiracy, New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison’s much publicized case against fellow New Orleans businman Clay Shaw alleging CIA involvement, the case and book that would become Oliver Stone’s 1992 film JFK and spark a partial release of the then secretive 1979 congressional JFK Assassination report. Two witnesses claimed to have seen Big Daddy with Lee Harvey Oswald a few months before Oswald left New Orleans for Dallas, and one claimed to have a photo of Big Daddy with Jack Ruby a month before Ruby shot and killed Oswald. But, Big Daddy was only indicted, and the witnesses vanished and the photo was never seen again, and Garrison didn’t mention the events in his book therefore Big Daddy wasn’t in 1992’s JFK, and why even Mamma Jean wouldn’t have been able to help Wendy much back then.
Judge Lottingger probably didn’t know about Big Daddy and Garrison, but he must have known about the mafia threats because they made national news in 1968, just after Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed, when Big Daddy was showcased both state and nationally as standing up to New Orleans mafia boss Carlos Marcello, who had offered Big Daddy $1 Million to recant his testimony. Big Daddy refused and pundits scoffed that the mafia wouldn’t bribe, they’d kill or intimidate, but a lot of Hoffa’s influence wasn’t public back then. The Teamsters controlled more than a billion dollars in unregulated dues held in their pension fund, and Hoffa had unlimited personal access to it and for years had lent money to mafia bosses to build casinos in the newly formed city of Las Vegas; hotels in Chicago, New Jersey, and New Orleans; and, surprisingly, Hollywood films; I’ve always wondered if the severed horse head in The Godfather was a message to Hoffa’s Teamsters and their two-horse logo. By the late 1960’s, the mafia families owed Hoffa about $120 Million, a huge sum of money back then, and Hoffa told his lawyers to spread the word that all debts would be forgiven if anyone, no matter who, could convince Big Daddy to recant or sign an affadavit that would free Hoffa. It was worth the money to Hoffa, especially because it wasn’t his money, to get out of prison. Marcello owed approximately $20 Million, so a $1 Million bribe to become free of debt sounded like a good investment that the ignorant pundits didn’t understand. For the first few years Hoffa was in prison, anyone in Baton Rouge named Partin was subject to intimidation, threats, and violence. Local news reported several unsuccessful attempts to intimidate Big Daddy, where he’d come home with a knife or small gunshot wound and covered in other people’s blood. Uncle Doug had, in his words, “the shit beaten out of him,” and news reports almost weekly of my second cousins, Big Daddy’s nephews named Patin, having their homes blown up.
What’s most telling about Judge Lottingger not mentioning my family is that he had personally overseen three governor’s attempts to rid Louisiana of Big Daddy, similar to how President Kennedy had tried to prosecute Jimmy Hoffa since before his presidency, when he was a senator on the labor relations committee, and how Bobby Kennedy focused on Hoffa after his brother appointed him U.S. Attorney General. In Big Daddy’s case, the primary governor pursuing him had been McKeithen, who was quoted in the newspaper almost weekly saying things like, “I’m not going to let Edward Partin and his hoodlum Teamsters run this state!” A much publicised shootout between a few truckloads of Local #5 Teamsters and a cement factory across the river in Plaquimine drove years of fruitless prosecution under Judge Lottingger’s watch.
In a nationally lampooned exchange between McKeithen and Walter Sheridan, who had left the FBI and was a national news correspondant for NBC with all the coverage that allows, Walter told the Governor McKeithen to simply “lay off Partin,” presumably because Hoffa was still in prison and Walter needed Big Daddy’s reputation intact. That level of quiet dismisal spoke louder than any rhetoric would have, and the Partin immunity persisted. Big Daddy was never convicted, but some of his men were. One was mentioned in a New Orleans newspaper on 25 June 1971, just before Wendy met my dad, and is indicative of the type of local reporting that belied national headlines about Big Daddy.
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.
Two other things happened just before I was born. Big Daddy stole $450,000 in unregulated pension fund from the Local #5 safe. The safe was found empty and without fingerprints at the bottom of a murky Baton Rouge river and the only two witnesses were found beaten and bloody. That made state and national news. The survivor refused to testify, but McKeithan had spearheaded a long term invetigation into Big Daddy and his Teamsters, and I can’t imagine Judge Lottingger not knowing that or connecting our names.
Finally, a nail in the coffin was also in the summer of 1971, when Big Daddy was suspected of killing Audie Murphy, a beloved celebrity and national hero. Audie had been flying to and from Baton Rouge on behalf of Hoffa and presidential candidate Richard Nixon with an affadavit prepared by Hoffa’s lawyers saying Big Daddy witnessed the Get Hoffa team using illegal wire tapping, and a draft presidential pardon from President Nixon eliminating possible charges of perjury against Big Daddy if he changed his testimony and swore that Hoffa had not asked him to bribe a juror in 1962. In other words, Hoffa and Nixon were offering Big Daddy two choices to free Hoffa via Audie Murphy. This was possible because Hoffa had offered Nixon millions of dollars towards his presidental campaign against Johnson along with Hoffa’s endoresement and the probable vote of approiximately 2.7 million Teamsters who seemed to follow Hoffa’s guidance, even from prison; the union had even kept paying Hoffa while he was incarcerated, and it’s likely Nixon would have wanted their votes. It would be the first time in history a republican would be endorsed by the Teamsetrs, but only if Nixon would help Hoffa convice Big Daddy to free him. Audie, a former Hollywood star who was in bankruptcy and vying for a new movie or business deal, knew Hoffa, Nixon, and Big Daddy and was trying to broker a deal in exchange for his own financial rescue. Walter Sheridan covered Audie’s flights to and from Baton Rouge in an entire chapter of his 1972 book, The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa, emphasizing how a man in prison could be a threat to democracy, and Audie was so well known natioally that his death was national news and investigated thoroughly. His small private plane crashed in Virginia less than a week after his final negotiation with Big Daddy in Baton Rouge, killing Audie and the four passengers.
Over time, his airplane crash was deemed pilot error, but at the time Big Daddy was suspected and he never denied it and that’s what Wendy and Judge Lottingger would have suspected in 1972. Audie had been America’s most decorated war hero, a WWII veteran with 278 confirmed kills, an impressive number even for mafia hitmen. Even Frank “The Irishman” Sheenan, a former WWII infantryman with a remarkable combat history, would mention Audie extensively and respectfully in his memoir. I believe Big Daddy didn’t deny orchestratign Audie’s death because he enjoyed the prestigue it offered him among Marcello’s men, who seemed to back off after than; though that was probably more due to Nixon’s pardon of Hoffa in late 1971, rendering Big Daddy and the Partins useless to the mafia and forgotten by all but a few of the lowest level, least informed mafia hitmen, not unlike how I read that Japanese soldiers on remote islands had continued shooting at white tourists because they didn’t know the war had ended after Hiroshima. Wendy, who was now Wendy Partin, was in for a shock.
Wendy wasn’t ready for a shock. When she met my dad, she was a virgin whoes older boyfriend had just graduated Glen Oaks High and was unable to get into college, even the local community colleges, and was drafted. He died less than three weeks after arriving in Vietnam, but his letters kept arriving for Wendy so she didn’t know until almost the end of summer. She was a young girl and didn’t understand her emotions well, and Granny was doing the best she could as a single, undeducated mother earning middle wage and commuting home; Granny rushed home and made dinner and paid bills and tried to relax, and was too drunk by 6:30PM to provide emotional support for Wendy after school. Wendy fled to Toronto, met her father, and he told her he had another family now and didn’t want her in his life. She flew back to Baton Rouge and met my dad and lost her virginity soon after beginning her junior year of high school. She never fully revovered.
When Wendy and my dad returned from getting married in Mississippi, they lived in one of Big Daddy’s houses, the one near the murky river where the sherif found the Teamsters safe, and that’s where I was born. My dad was, by most people’s definition, not a gentle husband or attentive father. Wendy was stuck in that house and learning that her family wasn’t the all American heros portrayed in media, and that, besides dealing drugs, they were willing to murder, rape, steal, commit adultury, perjure, and kidnap kids after unfavorable custody decisions. She fled Louisiana again, but caught her breath and returned on her own a few weeks later. I don’t know where my dad was. He had ridden to Miami with friends on their motorcycles and took a boat to Kingston or Cuba or Puerto Rico – we were never sure which – to buy a boat load of drugs to sell in Baton Rouge, and he left Wendy and me in Big Daddy’s home. She fled her situation again, which meant abandoning me at the daycare center at which she had dropped me off morning before finding a handwritten note to share gas for a drive to California. Soon after she left, my dad returned and was arrested with opiods but not convicted, probaly because he was Edward Grady Partin Junior. When Wendy was divorcing my dad and fighting for custody, Judge Lottingger must have known that yet didn’t mention it. Taking all of this back story into account, it’s easy to see why Wendy would say, “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,.”
I’m impressed that Judge Lottingger barerly mentioned her past and seemed to only focus on the present, saying, “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.” But, that’s not quite true. Our first home was a tiny appartment near the highway and a run down and remote part of Baton Rouge near Belaire High School, and it was a stained, crumbling, cockroach infested piece of shit behind a busy Chinese restaurant with questionable garbage disposal habits that led to a permenent stench and abundance of flies all summer. But, he got most of the rest right.
As for my dad’s court records around then, he never served jail time, but he was arrested for possessing opiods with the intent to distribute, a fancy way of saying he was a drug dealer. No one knows why the Baton Rouge criminal court judge didn’t send him to prison, but it was probably becasuse of his name.
Forty three years later, in 2019, when I was rereading my custody court report at a bar in Havana, I noticed something for the first time, even after all these years. Lottingger wrote, “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.” I miss a lot of information, and I’ve always known that, which is why I reread things. I pondered that realization for a while, reflecting on memoriers going back almost half a century. She hadn’t really drank when I lived with her, if you define drinking as getting drunk or buzzed. For most of my life, I never saw her drink more than a glass of wine or two with meals or at a party with my stepdad, Mike, and only a couple of times a week at most. She hadn’t begun drinking and becomign drunk until about fifteen years before, after Mike cheated on her and they separated. Even then, it was only at social events when she was trying to date again, trying to be happy with the situation life had given her. She drank to relax and try her best to be active and meet someone again. Had she read a handwritten note seeking to share a drive to California, she may have visted me more often. I knew that building bonds was at least a two way effort or effortless action, and she could have visited me as often as I could have visted her. Wendy had inherited the IRA’s of Granny and Uncle Bob and therefore Auntie Lo, too, and she retired early and never wanted for money or time. She wanted love, and the pursuit of love led to her early death and decade of slowly killing her body with a mind depressant, just like her mother before her. There was no winner or happy ending for anyone in their story, other than Granny died just like Uncle Bob, saying she had no regrets. just like Bob. I hope I can say the same one day.
Wendy and I hadn’t discussed my time in the foster system. other than a few times when she said how proud she was of me, and how proud Uncle Bob and Granny would have been; Auntie Lo was such a drunkard that Wendy often omitted her. My mom and I had developed a deep bond over time, a bond that was unlike any other mother and son I knew and more like friends or siblings with a shared past that few other people would understand. We were the only ones who could reminess together. Who else would believe us? When she’d joke that she was born WAR and lost her first love to war and marring a Partin at 16 WARPed her. Years after Desert Storm, she’d laugh and say that I was emancipated at age 16 and went to war, but at least I didn’t have to live with a Partin any more. Her humor was dark and sarcastic, but it came from the best place she could muster, and I’ve always believed it was, at least in part, as a way to pass on to me the importance of temperace.
My mom and I became friends and had atypical mother-son relationship, which is part of the reason I called my mother Wendy up until just a moment before she passed away. If I had a regret, it would be that I hadn’t realized how much I loved my mother sooner.
Go to The Table of Contents