Jimmy Hoffa was born in the town of Brazil, Indiana on February 14, 1913. His father was a coal miner and died when Jimmy was only seven years old, leaving him to live alone with his mother. Jimmy dropped out of his school in Detroit at the age of 14 and looked for work.
One of his first jobs was in a warehouse owned by the Kroger Company. He helped to organize a strike soon after and, by the time he was twenty years old, Jimmy became a business agent for the local Teamsters union in Detroit. Hoffa drove a hard bargain with companies, but he was very effective and developed a good reputation among his fellow union members.
In 1952, Hoffa was elected to become the international vice president of the Teamsters Union and was president by 1957 after the former president, Dave Beck, was put in prison for using union funds to renovate his home. Jimmy's earliest accomplishment as president was to negotiate the Teamsters' first national contract with trucking companies. With Jimmy as president, the Teamsters Union membership swelled above two million.
However, Jimmy was involved in shady dealings with the mafia. A federal investigation headed by Robert Kennedy had been launched in 1957 and eventually provided enough evidence for Jimmy to go to trial. Hoffa allegedly misappropriated nearly ten million dollars in Teamsters Union funds. Among his charges were jury tampering, conspiracy, and pension fund fraud. The first trial resulted in a hung jury voting 7-5 for acquittal. The judge declared a mistrial, believing that Hoffa was guilty and had bought the jury. The second trial resulted in a verdict of guilty and Hoffa was given eight years in federal prison.
Even in prison, Hoffa served as president of the Teamsters, refusing to resign. When Nixon, to whom Hoffa had generously donated campaign funds, released Hoffa on December 24, 1971, he was ordered to stay away from all union activities until 1980. Jimmy was happy to be out of jail, but contested his being banned from union activities in court. As a result of being unable to participate in unions, his position as president of the Teamsters was taken by Frank Fitzsimmons.
On July 30, 1975, Jimmy was seen in the parking lot of Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It was the last time he was seen before disappearing and being declared legally dead in 1983. The investigators in his disappearance suspect that the mafia killed him since he wanted to regain his control of the Union and he had information that could put away a number of mob bosses.
Since Jimmy's body was never found, no convictions could be made. His son James Hoffa ran for Teamsters Union presidency and his daughter, Barbara, unsuccessfully sued the government in 1987 to release investigative files from the Hoffa case. Some individuals suspect that Jimmy Hoffa had a role to play in the Kennedy assassination and the mafia murdered him to prevent him from testifying to the House Select Committee on Assassinations.