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Jimmy Hoffa (February 14, 1913 – July 30, 1975)

Jimmy Hoffa was born in Brazil, Indiana. One of the most famous labor leaders in American history, he quickly rose through the ranks of the Teamsters Union, culminating in the office of president. In 1967, Hoffa went to prison for jury tampering, fraud and conspiracy. He disappeared in 1975 and is presumed dead.

Hoffa’s childhood had a profound impact on his adult life. His father was a coal miner who died when Hoffa was still a youngster. This caused his mother to have to go to work to support her family of four children. Obtaining a limited education (there are still conflicting reports about whether Hoffa reached high school), he did at some point drop out of school in order to help his mother support the family. He took a job on a loading dock for a grocery store chain in Detroit (where the Hoffa family had to relocate to after Hoffa’s father’s death). There, he staged his first labor strike to help the employees get a better contract. (He used a newly delivered shipment of strawberries as his bargaining tool. The strawberries would not be moved until they had a better deal.)

Hoffa joined the Teamsters Union in the 1930s and became vice president of the entire organization in 1952. Five years later, he was president. Hoffa was often under the watchful eye of the FBI as they were considered that the Teamsters may have been assisted by organized crime, but for the most part, Hoffa was able to keep his nose clean and avoid legal troubles. The Justice Department tried many, many times to indict him, but they often failed to win the cases against the popular labor leader, until his 1967 conviction of jury tampering, fraud and conspiracy which sent Hoffa to prison for 13 years. President Ronald Reagan commuted Hoffa’s sentence in 1971. Nixon banned Hoffa from holding a leadership position with the Teamsters until 1980.

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa left his Detroit home to meet with a local crime figure and mob-connected New Jersey union leader at a restaurant in Bloomfield Township. They were supposed to be settling an old score. Hoffa was the only one who showed up. What happened to Hoffa after that is not known. His car was found in the restaurant’s parking lot, but the car contained no clues as to Hoffa’s whereabouts. Hoffa was declared legally dead in 1982.

Hoffa married Josephine Poszywak in 1936. The couple had two children, daughter Barbara and son James. James has followed in his father’s footsteps; he has been the president of the Teamsters since 1998.