The untold truth of Jimmy Hoffa

Long before Jimmy Hoffa became a punchline or a Scorcese movie he was one of the most powerful union organizers and leaders in American history. Biography tells us that unions were pretty much in the man's blood. Born in 1913 in Indiana, he dropped out of high school after the family moved to Detroit. He organized his first labor strike while a teenager, working on a grocery store's loading dock, but found his true calling when he joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in the 1930s. He developed a reputation for ruthless negotiation on behalf of his constituents, and in 1952 became the union's vice president. Five years later, he was president, with his predecessor tried and convicted of nefarious works on behalf of the union. In 1964 Hoffa scored an enormous gain by uniting almost all of the truckers in the United States under one contract. But that was also the year that saw the beginning of his end.

Hoffa always looked for the union label

Two years earlier he'd faced federal charges of conspiracy. In 1964 he was convicted of bribery and jury tampering in connection with that trial. Four months later he was convicted of misusing union pension funds. Hoffa appealed but lost and in 1967 went to federal prison to begin a 13-year sentence. In 1971 President Richard Nixon pardoned Hoffa, under the condition that Jimmy stay out of union work. Hoffa went back in the deal and tried to regain leadership of the Teamsters. In 1975, however, Hoffa set up a meeting with local mob figures, but went missing from the parking lot of the Detroit restaurant where the meet was supposed to occur. As of March 2020, his body has not been found. In 1982 he was legally declared dead.

Hoffa really was ruthless in consolidating power on behalf of his union members, and is generally considered to have made numerous friends in organized crime to help that process. He's also believed to have made more than a few enemies there as well, both before and during his prison terms. The mystery of his disappearance still draws theories and attempts to find his body, per Mentalfloss; as recently as 2013 the FBI itself searched a field in Michigan where an informant said Hoffa was buried. He wasn't.

Why keep searching? Everybody loves a mystery, especially if they solve it. Even if it would stop the jokes — "Elvis, Tupac, and Hoffa walked into a bar...."