Jimmy Hoffa, in his short 62 years in this world has caused a change that will live in the minds of
many people forever. But there is one question that bothers many people, was Jimmy Hoffa a hero or a
criminal?
Hoffa was born James Riddle Hoffa, the second of the four children of John Cleveland Hoffa and
Viola Riddle Hoffa. Hoffa was born on February 14, 1913 in Brazil, Indiana. When his father, a coal
driller who suffered from an occupational respiratory disease, died in 1920, his mother, who was already
taking in laundry, began doing additional work as a domestic and cook in order to support the household
(WB Enc 269).
Jimmy Hoffa was a man who loved and respected his mother and father, even though he never had
a chance to really get to know his father.
Hoffa has described his mother as a "warm and loving" but no-nonsense "frontier-type
woman" who believed that "Duty and Discipline were spelled with capital D's." The children were
expected to hurry home from school, change their clothes quickly, and do their allotted chores
expeditiously. Hoffa's tasks were taking care of the stove and the clothes boiler and picking up and
delivering laundry. The family worshiped at the Christian Seaboard Congregational churches, and Hoffa
attended Sunday school there.(Current Bio)
In 1922 the Hoffas moved to Clinton Indiana, two years later they settled in Detroit, Michigan, in
an apartment on Merritt Street on the city's brawling, working-class West Side. There he and his brother
were derided by their peers as "hillbillies" until they won acceptance with their fists.
At the Neinas Intermediate School in Detroit, Hoffa was a bashful B student who
won prizes in gymnastics. After school he worked as a delivery boy, and following completion of the ninth
grade he dropped out of school to take a full-time job as a $12-a-week stockboy in Frank and Cedar's
department store. In 1930 he left that job to become a freight handler at the Green Avenue warehouse of
the Kroger Grocery and Baking Company.(Hoyt 44)
The Kroger Company was Hoffa's first fight with the authority of a large company.
Deplorable working conditions, low pay, and a sadistic foreman at the warehouse Hoffa
says, drove him into the labor movement "for self-preservation." With four co-workers (who
remained trusted members of his staff throughout his career as a titled union leader), he organized enough
of Kroger's warehousemen to call an effective strike at a strategic moment: the arrival of a trainload
of highly perishable strawberries at financial loss the company acceded to them quickly, within an
hour.(Current Bio.)
In October 1931 the Kroger union was chartered as Federal Local 19341 of the American
Federation of Labor. The following year Hoffa quit his job at Kroger to become a full-time organizer for
Joint Council 43.
The Detroit jurisdictional unit of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which was
then affiliated with the AFL. Hoffa took the Kroger union with him into the IBT, where its membership
was absorbed into Local 299. Because of financial and electoral improprieties, Local 299
had been placed under trusteeship by Teamster President Dan Tobin, but Ray Bennett, the trustee, let
Hoffa, 299's business agent, run the local, and after the decade-long trusteeship ended Hoffa was elected
president.(Alter 34)
In 1952 he was elected an international vice president of the Teamsters Union, and in 1957 he
became international president. Hoffa earned a reputation among his peers as a tough and effective
bargainer. In 1964 he negotiated the union's first national contract with trucking companies. Under Hoffa's
leadership the Teamsters union membership grew to more than two million.
Hoffa was long rumored to be associated with organized crime, having links to mafia figures such
as Anthony Provenzano, a Teamster boss,and Anthony Giacalone, a Detroit mobster. Jimmy Hoffa used his
influence in the mafia to get what he wanted done in the business world. This technique was effective yet
illegal.
The United States Department of Justice was unsuccessful in its prosecution of Hoffa
until it enlisted the help of Edward Grady Partin, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana Teamster who was in jail
awaiting trial on charges of embezzling union funds and kidnapping. Partin, released from jail, attached
himself to Hoffa, in the guise of a loyal factotum, during a 1962 trial in which the Teamster president was
charged with accepting an illegal payment from