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Who Was Jimmy Hoffa and Why Is His Death a Mystery?

photograph of James R. Hoffa
Garam / CC0

Jimmy Hoffa’s death remains a mystery, but a new generation of folks was introduced to this former Teamsters’ life in the movie The Irishman. Hoffa disappeared in 1975, and his body is still missing.

Who Was Jimmy Hoffa?

Jimmy Hoffa, born James Riddle Hoffa (coincidentally, his life would pose quite a riddle when he went missing), came into the world on Valentine’s Day in 1913. He was last seen alive by anyone willing to talk about it on July 30, 1975, in Bloomfield, Michigan. Whether or not he died that day, he wasn’t officially declared dead until July 30, 1982, seven years after he went missing.

From 1957 to 1971, Hoffa made a name for himself as the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Hoffa’s passion for the workforce union started early in life. Unfortunately, as was popular in the 70s, he also ended up running with a bad crowd and had his hands in organized crime—which may have had something to do with his untimely death.

Before he made it to the role of president of the Teamsters, he acted as vice-president starting in 1952. Hoffa’s efforts as a union activist paid off and opened up a bright future for him. (Probably the wrong wording though, as his future wasn’t bright, but it could have been.)

Hoffa’s Teamsters

Hoffa did some amazing things during his time with the teamsters. He was behind a deal with the National Master Freight Agreement in 1964 that was the first national agreement for Teamsters’ rates.

It was during his term as Teamsters’ president that the union first reached its largest membership numbers in the United States. At its peak, with Hoffa at the helm, membership included 2.3 million members. Hoffa resigned from his position as president as part of an agreement he made with President Richard Nixon, after spending time in prison.

While he was a significant influence on labor relations in his time, he has all but been forgotten by recent generations. Unions aren’t as big of news now as they once were.

Jimmy Hoffa and Organized Crime

If you want to learn a little bit about Hoffa and his dealings with organized crime, The Irishmen tells a bit of the story, laying the groundwork for Hoffa’s time in prison and the things that happened before his disappearance.

Whether or not it’s still true, unions in the past were often tied to organized crime and the Mafia. It may come as no surprise to older generations that Hoffa, as someone so high up in the Teamsters, partook in his own criminal agendas working with organized crime units.

Hoffa went to prison for a laundry list of things, including bribery and mail and wire fraud. He had two separate trials in 1964, and was imprisoned in 1967. While Hoffa had initially been sentenced to 13 years in prison for his crimes, he got out in 1971.

He’d made a commutation agreement with President Richard Nixon before being released, which was what brought about his resignation from the Teamsters. He wasn’t allowed to participate in any union activities until 1980—but he never had the chance to enjoy this passion again.

Jimmy Hoffa’s Disappearance

Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance remains an unsolved case to this very day. His mob pal Frank Sheeran was one of over a dozen people to claim they were the one to take Hoffa out. Sheeran said he was hired by the Bufalino family to take out Hoffa, and that he shot Hoffa (a portrayal you’ll see if you watch The Irishman).

Whoever did kill Jimmy, no one ever went to prison for it, and most of those who were involved are likely dead by now.

Aside from how he died and by whose hands, the other big mystery surrounding Hoffa’s demise is where his body is. Countless conspiracies have circulated as to where his final resting place is, and wherever it is, no one has found his remains yet.

Some of the theories include:

  • In a Landfill in North Jersey: A dump with mob ties could be where Hoffa’s body has been resting for decades. The landfill is known as “Brother Moscato’s Dump.”
  • At a Farm in Milford Township, Michigan: In 2006, the FBI removed a barn where mob meetings were once held on a property previously owned by a Teamster. They didn’t find Hoffa’s body.
  • Under a Pool in Hampton Township, Michigan: In 2003, a man in police custody said that Hoffa was buried under the pool on his former property. The pool was excavated, but Hoffa’s remains were not found there.
  • Under the Former Giants Stadium: One urban legend said that Hoffa’s body was buried under the Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. It was believed his diced-up body was encased in the concrete under the west end zone. The original stadium was demolished in 2010, and the empty hole filled with cement—if Hoffa is there, he’s never going to be found.
  • Under a Driveway in Roseville, Michigan: In 2012, it was reported that Hoffa was buried under a driveway in Roseville. Rather than tear up the drive, core samples of the Earth were taken, and they found no signs of body decomposition.
  • In the Foundation of General Motors Headquarters, Detroit: Much like Hoffa’s alleged demise at the end of a gun by his pal Sheeran, another book had people believing Hoffa’s body lies in the foundation of General Motors Headquarters. This was big news in 2011, and whether or not the Renaissance Center, home of GM headquarters, is Hoffa’s final resting place, the world will probably never know.
Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »