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Who is Jimmy Hoffa?

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  • Written By: Dana Hinders
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
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  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Jimmy Hoffa, born James Riddle Hoffa on 14 February 1913, was president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in the 1950s and 1960s. His son, James P. Hoffa, was president of the organization as of 2008.

Raised in a working class family, Jimmy Hoffa dropped out of school in the ninth grade just before the Great Depression. He took a job unloading produce from railway cars, a position that sparked his initial interest in union activities. After being fired for fighting with a foreman, his next job was as a full time union organizer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Jimmy Hoffa assumed the presidency of the Teamsters in 1957, after his predecessor was convicted of bribery charges and sent to jail.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters wielded considerable power under the leadership of Jimmy Hoffa. Strikes and boycotts were common, but the union was known to use his organized crime connections to sway resistant employers. President John F. Kennedy was also convinced that Jimmy Hoffa had been pocketing union funds for his own personal use. In 1964, Jimmy Hoffa was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempted bribery of a grand juror. However, he was released in 1971 when President Richard Nixon commuted Hoffa's sentence under the stipulation that he not participate in union activities for at least 10 years.

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On 30 July 1975, Jimmy Hoffa mysteriously disappeared from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Oakland County, Michigan. He had been supposedly planning to meet Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone and Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, but both Mafia leaders had sound alibis and claimed to have no knowledge of the appointment when questioned by investigators. Jimmy Hoffa’s body has never been recovered, but he was pronounced legally dead in 1982.

In popular culture, Jimmy Hoffa has been immortalized in a number of books, songs, movies, and television programs. In 1992, for example, the semi-factual motion picture Hoffa starred Jack Nicholson as Jimmy Hoffa. In season one of MythBusters , hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman unsuccessfully attempted to find Jimmy Hoffa’s body by using a ground penetrating radar device to search rumored burial locations within Giants Stadium. The popular video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City , even features an "Easter Egg" that places Jimmy Hoffa's body inside a bridge in accordance with the view that he was thrown in a cement mixer and built into a city structure.

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