Thursday, August 9, 2018

On His Way to Prison

In Washington D.C. on a gloomy drizzly March day, Chuckie O'Brien drove his step-father, Jimmy Hoffa, to the federal building to surrender to the U.S. marshals.

"There's going to be a mob of media folk at the front door," Chuckie warned. "Let me drive you around back."

Jimmy refused. "I never ran away from anybody and I'll be damned if I'm gonna start now. Drive this son of a bitch right up to the front door."

There March 7, 1967, Jimmy faced microphones and cameras.

Afterwards, marshals prepared him for his 192-mile trip to the federal penitentiary.

They handcuffed his wrists, put him in the back seat of a dark blue Pontiac, and chained his legs to the floor.

Jimmy spread his raincoat over his immobile hands and legs, to conceal his humiliation.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Dad’s Headline

On the morning of March 7, 1967, Janet Niebruegge, a staff reporter for the Fort Collins Coloradoan, rang my dad in his city manager office.

"Did you know that Jimmy Hoffa's on his way to jail right now?" she asked.

"Yes, I know. I've anticipated this day for a long long time."

Janet's voice sounded bouncy. "And how do you feel about that?"

Dad took a deep breath and proceeded to recite what he'd composed during restless nights. "'I would be less than honest if I were to say that I had not looked forward to today when the prison gates closed behind James Riddle Hoffa.'"

"That's a mouthful." Janet paused. "Maybe something shorter?"

"Okay. How about this?" Dad's voice lightened. "I will sleep a little sounder tonight."

"That's great! Thanks, Tom." 

And his short version became Janet's headline that afternoon. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Election

On the morning of March 28, 1956 the NLRB Field Examiner opened and counted the four legal ballots deposited by the four Coffey's Transfer drivers in Omaha. All four voted against the union. The three illegal Teamster votes weren't counted. 

In the NLRB's formal language, "A majority of four valid votes has not been cast for the Union."

"How do you like that?" Dad's eyes widened. "We beat the hell out of the Teamsters, and I've only been out of business for a month."

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Get-Hoffa Squad

A Chattanooga jury deliberated for five hours after government prosecutors tried Jimmy Hoffa and five-codefendants for fixing a jury.

For weeks, a web of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers had entangled the trial. But Jimmy, never singled out by the prosecutor, concluded he was innocent.

Even so, Jimmy's lawyers worked hard. One hurled thirty pieces of silver at the prosecutors. Another cried, "The government's case is a foul and filthy frame-up designed by the 'Get-Hoffa Squad.'"

Bobby Kennedy and his chief FBI investigator, Walter Sheridan, belonged to the Get-Hoffa Squad, located in Washington, D.C.

Then on March 4, 1964, the jury found Jimmy guilty of two counts. When he heard, the color drained from his face.

Sheridan bolted out of the courtroom, located a phone, and called Bobby.

"Guilty—two counts! We made it!" Sheridan reported.

"Nice work," Bobby said. And invited Sheridan to a victory party at the Kennedy home.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Wooed by Semantics

In a few more days, I'd live uptown in Tom Henshaw's apartment. As a married woman. My drinking buddy had turned into my fiancé.

Dad sat at the table, figuring my taxes: my federal taxes and my marriage ceremony fell on April 15, 1961. Except for taxes, I was ready. I'd made my simple wedding gown, blue. To wear white would be two-faced. 

What really enthralled me was semantics. I read Science and Sanity by Alfred Korzybski, known for saying, "The map is not the territory." 

Once in class, Korzybski opened a packet of biscuits, wrapped in white paper. "Excuse me, I just must have something to eat." 

He looked at the students. "Would you like a biscuit?"

Several reached for one.

"Nice biscuit, hmm?" Korzybski ate a second one.

Before him, students chewed vigorously.

Suddenly, he ripped the white paper off to reveal a package labeled "Dog Cookies."

Shocked students clapped their hands over their mouths, ran out of class to the toilet to vomit.

"You see," Korzybski told the remaining students, "I have just demonstrated that people don't just eat food, but also words."

Thursday, July 5, 2018


At supper, Dad cut a piece of meat loaf, popped it in his mouth, chewed, swallowed, patted his lips dry. "I treated that Senator Carl Curtis to coffee, and he said, 'Just between the two of us, that Bobby Kennedy sure is a spoiled brat. Doesn't have the patience to build a solid legal case against the men he's questioning. So he just engages in shouting matches.'"

Dad swirled a piece of meat loaf into its juices. His voice softened. "And guess what. Carl wanted to know if I'd be willing to come to Washington D.C. and testify on Bobby Kennedy's committee—against Hoffa.

Dad whooped. "I nearly broke his arm off, I pumped it so hard."

Thursday, June 28, 2018


Hidden FBI cameras rolled as John Cheasty gave Jimmy Hoffa a memo about Dave Beck. "It's enough to cook Beck's goose," Cheasty piped.

Not knowing that the goose to be cooked would be his, Jimmy slipped Cheasty $2,000 cash.

As Jimmy crossed the Dupont Plaza Hotel lobby, five guys, wearing gray suits and wide-brimmed hats, approached him.

"FBI," said one. "You're under arrest."

Jimmy's face tightened. "For what?"

A few men fanned out behind Jimmy. "Just come with us."

"Like hell I will." Jimmy punched the elevator button.

When the five men ringed Jimmy, he threw both hands up. "Goddammit, you want trouble, you can have it. Most of these folks in the lobby are my guys. So go ahead, make a fuckin' fuss, and we'll have one hell of a fight."