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James Riddle Hoffa

Hoffa, James Riddle (hôfˈə) [key], 1913–75?, U.S. labor leader, b. Brazil, Indiana. As a young warehouseman he organized (1932) a union that was admitted two years later into the Teamsters Union. Hoffa rose swiftly in the Teamsters, in 1952 becoming international vice president and in 1957 succeeding Dave Beck as president. Evidence of corruption in the union revealed by a Senate investigating committee in 1957 led to the expulsion from the American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations of the Teamsters, which had been the federation's largest affiliate. Moreover, Hoffa was forced to accept a board of monitors to supervise his activities as Teamsters president.

Despite efforts from outside the union to remove him, Hoffa was reelected president by acclamation in 1961. In 1962 a federal grand jury indicted him for accepting illegal payments from a Detroit trucking company; the case ended in a mistrial. Hoffa's power continued to grow, and by 1964 he was able to effect the trucking industry's first national contract. In the same year, however, he was convicted of jury tampering and of fraud in handling the union benefits fund, and was sentenced to a 13-year prison term. After all appeals had been exhausted, Hoffa began (1967) serving his sentence, but he retained the Teamster presidency until 1971, when he resigned. In the same year, President Nixon commuted Hoffa's sentence, with the parole provision that he not engage in union activity until 1980. After his release, Hoffa promoted prison reform. He disappeared in 1975 and is widely assumed to have been murdered.

See his autobiography, The Trials of Jimmy Hoffa (1970); W. Sheridan, The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa (1972); D. Moldea, The Hoffa Wars (1978); T. Russell, Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Remaking of the American Working Class (2001).

His son James Philip Hoffa, 1941–, b. Detroit, is a labor lawyer. He was narrowly defeated when he ran for the Teamster's presidency in 1996 but won the post in a 1998 contest and retained it in 2001..

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Labor: Biographies


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