Today in 1975, James Hoffa vanished while in Detroit. Hoffa was one of the most prominent figures in the modern labor movement. His disappearance is widely thought to have been the result of a Mafia assassination, but the exact circumstances are still unknown.
Hoffa became involved in labor organizing from a young age. He was principally involved with the Teamsters, a then-nascent trucker's union. He was noticed for his energy, charismatic speaking and deeply held conviction.
The Teamsters made waves through both legal and illegal means, securing contract wins for workers across the country. As the union grew, so did Hoffa's stature. He was elected president of the Teamsters in 1957, after his predecessor was sent to prison on bribery charges.
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Hoffa was a popular president, renowned for his work ethic and approachability. "You got a problem? Call me. Just pick up the phone," went one of his most famous quotes.
His career, even from its early days, was tied intimately with organized crime. In 1964, he was convicted for fraud, bribery and jury tampering, for which he received a thirteen-year prison sentence. He went to prison in 1967, to be released in 1971 after striking a bargain with Nixon that he'd resign as Teamster president. He was also forbidden from engaging in union activities until 1980. He made an unsuccessful bid to overturn the order.
He disappeared from the parking lot of the Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, after telling others that he was rendezvousing with two Mafia members. Nobody knows exactly what happened, and competing theories still circulate to this day.