The disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa ranks as one of the most enduring and intriguing mysteries in recent American history. He vanished on July 30, 1975, and while he was murdered that day, there are still various theories as to who killed him and where the body is buried.
Rise to Power
Hoffa was born in Indiana in 1913, but his family moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1924. He left school at the age of 14 and performed manual labor until he started union organizational work at grassroots level. Hoffa impressed the Teamsters of Detroit enough for the group to offer him a leadership position at its Local 299 branch.
While the Teamsters were a big organization with 75,000 members in 1933, it was split into small local trucker groups. Over the course of 20 years, Hoffa helped organize it into a national body with over one million members by 1951. He became president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in 1958; by now, it was one of the country’s most powerful unions.
His position and activities made him a target for investigation and Hoffa was known for his ties to organized crime. He became a target for Robert Kennedy who created a ‘Get Hoffa’ squad. Hoffa received an eight-year prison sentence in 1964 for attempting to bribe a grand juror. He also received a five-year sentence (to run concurrently with his other term) in 1964 for misappropriating $1.7 million in union pension funds.
After three years of appeals, Hoffa went to prison in 1967 but was pardoned by President Nixon in 1971 with the condition that he remained out of union politics until 1980.
Hoffa didn’t take the situation seriously and made moves to regain control of the Teamsters from his former right-hand man Frank Fitzsimmons. The mobsters did not approve as they knew Fitzsimmons was a more acceptable face of the union and easier to manipulate. The mob warned Hoffa several times about his conduct, but he refused to listen. His stubbornness and lust for power led to his death.
On July 30, 1975, Hoffa went to the Red Fox Restaurant just outside of Detroit to meet two known Mafia figures; Anthony Provenzano and Anthony Giacalone. The meeting was set for 2 pm, but neither man showed up. Hoffa ran his wife at 2.30pm and complained about the tardiness of the two men. He said he would wait for a few more minutes before leaving. Hoffa was seen leaving at 2.45pm in the backseat of a maroon car. A truck driver claims the car almost hit him on the way out and said he saw a man in the backseat with Hoffa holding an object covered with a blanket.
Hoffa’s car was found at the restaurant and investigations into his disappearance revealed nothing. He was declared legally dead in 1982. Provenzano was a prime suspect at the outset, but he had a cast iron alibi. Of course, he could have just ordered the hit. Given the Mafia’s preference for discretion, it seems odd that Provenzano would schedule a meeting with Hoffa and subsequently kill him. With no concrete evidence, it was inevitable that a variety of theories would emerge.