News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News

June 21, 2013

Digging up Hoffa History

This week’s renewed search in Michigan again focuses attention on notorious union boss with Wabash Valley background

BRAZIL — The mystery of what happened to Jimmy Hoffa, a Clay County native who rose to become one of the most powerful and controversial union bosses in U.S. history, lives on across the nation and also in his Wabash Valley hometown.

Just this week, FBI agents searched a weedy field near Detroit looking for any evidence of Hoffa’s fate. The former Teamsters leader was last seen on July 30, 1975, when he was to meet with two mob bosses at a Michigan restaurant.

This week’s search, triggered by a tip from a former Mafia figure, turned up nothing — except the fact that the Hoffa mystery still captures the public’s imagination.

In downtown Brazil, the Clay County Historical Society Museum features an exhibit on Hoffa, complete with photos, copies of family legal documents and several books about Hoffa.

“I imagine we’ve had four or five [retired Teamster] truck drivers come in and look at” the exhibit, said Larry Branum, afternoon host at the museum and a member of the historical society. Despite his 1964 conviction for jury tampering and misuse of union pension funds, Hoffa retains the admiration and respect of many museum visitors today, Branum said.

In his day, Hoffa was not universally loved within organized labor, however. The Clay County museum exhibit features a mocking “Teamsters Coloring Book” published while Hoffa was still around by a rival union that clearly accuses Hoffa and his closest allies of greed, kickbacks and other shady dealings.

The first page in the coloring book depicts a portly Hoffa with cash overflowing from his pockets. The text under the drawing plays on Hoffa’s middle name, Riddle, which was his mother’s maiden name.

“The ‘R’ stands for Riddle. Guess whether I will do as much for you as you will do for me. Color my pockets green,” states the book, which also attacks other Teamster leaders.

Jimmy Hoffa was born in 1913 and lived the first 10 years of his eventful life in Brazil. His first home was on North Vandalia Street, but he lived the longest in a home at 315 E. Church St. in a place now home to a parking lot for Hardee’s, a fast-food restaurant on National Avenue, according to Ken Turner, a member of the Clay County Historical Society.

Directly across from Hoffa’s Church Street home was the Lambert Street School, which Hoffa attended, Turner said. The school, an impressive structure built in the 1870s, was torn down as part of a WPA project during the Depression, he said.

Like his old school, each of the three homes in which Hoffa lived in Brazil has been torn down over the years. A third residence, home to one of Hoffa’s uncles, was at 64 N. Ashley Street.

Now, little remains of this famous Clay County native apart from the exhibit at the museum, although Hoffa’s father’s is buried in an unmarked grave in the Cottage Hill Cemetery east of Brazil on Indiana 340, Turner said.

During his prime, Jimmy Hoffa occasionally returned to Clay County to visit relatives, including once in 1963, the year before his conviction, according to a 1992 Tribune-Star interview with surviving relatives.

Hoffa also had family ties in Vermillion County and the small town of Cunot in Owen County. In fact, one of the Hoffa legends states that big, fancy automobiles, such as those you might see associated with underworld figures, were seen cruising through a Cunot cemetery soon after Hoffa’s disappearance, leading to local speculation the union boss was buried there, Turner said.

Hoffa’s father, John, a blacksmith in coal mining, died in 1920 when Jimmy was still very young. A few years later, Jimmy’s mother, Viola Riddle Hoffa, took her family to Clinton and then to Detroit.

Viola Riddle had been a farm girl living near Jessup in Parke County when she met Jimmy’s father, whose family had lived in Cunot, Turner said. John and Viola were married in Parke County. Jimmy’s mother likely moved her family north to Detroit after her husband’s death to find better opportunities to earn a living to provide for her four children, he said.

“She had the four children who were just really young,” Turner said. “Detroit was on the boom” at the time.

Now, more than 35 years after his disappearance, the mystery of Jimmy Hoffa continues to fascinate people around the world.

“He was a well-known, controversial figure,” Turner said. “There’s all kinds of speculation what happened to him.”

This week’s failed search north of Detroit only fuels that continuing mystery, giving it new life. And, meanwhile, the most enduring “riddle” surrounding this famous Clay County native remains unsolved.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
News
  • MET070914 house exterior.jpg Historic Ohio Boulevard house inspired by 1948 Cary Grant movie

    Spurred in 1948 by a newly released movie staring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, coupled with a growing post-World War II housing market, General Electric partnered with Hollywood’s RKO Studios to build “dream homes” throughout the country.

    July 9, 2014 4 Photos 1 Story

  • Detour ahead

    A panel of public and private officials is calling for $10 billion in projects to upgrade Indiana’s aging roads and bridges, but its members concede there’s no money to pay for it all.

    July 9, 2014

  • MET070814 barrels.jpg MARK BENNETT: Making road work a barrel of fun for drivers

    We’re lucky orange barrels can’t talk.

    July 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • City Council to take up city finances tonight

    The Terre Haute City Council will have a chance in a special meeting tonight to delve deeply into the city’s financial health. However, council members are being asked to avoid raising the most controversial subject of recent weeks: The city’s use of Redevelopment Commission tax increment finance (TIF) money.

    July 9, 2014

  • Bennett accepts $5,000 fine in ethics settlement

    Former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett has agreed to pay $5,000 as part of a settlement with Indiana’s ethics watchdog in which he admits to using state resources for campaign work but is cleared of formal ethics violations in the grade-change scandal that cost him his job as Florida’s schools chief last year.

    July 9, 2014

  • Vermillion Jail trusties face new charges

    Two former inmate trusties at the Vermillion County Jail face new criminal charges after a recently discovered security breach at the jail.

    July 9, 2014

  • Lawrence police acquire armored military vehicle

    A central Indiana city has acquired an armored military vehicle for use in highly dangerous situations.

    July 9, 2014

  • Free carwash for law enforcement

    Mike’s Carwash locations in Central Indiana, including Terre Haute, will honor the sacrifice of IMPD Officer Perry Renn and thank all those who serve and protect our communities with a free carwash for police and emergency personnel today and Friday.

    July 9, 2014

  • MET070814 voice four.jpg Hitting a high note

    A 17-year-old from Casey, Ill., won “The Voice of the Valley” Tuesday night, singing and shaking his hips and legs to an Elvis Presley song, then wooing the grandstand audience at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds with a country tune.

    July 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET 070814 STORM STAUNTON.jpg Clay County residents clean up debris, get power back

    Several power outages still affected hundreds of Duke Energy customers on Tuesday, more than 24 hours after storms and strong winds swept through west-central Indiana, leaving a swath of damage in the Staunton, Brazil and Center Point areas.

    July 9, 2014 4 Photos

  • MET 052106 EVANBAYH ADDRESS.jpg Return to Indiana?

    Evan Bayh is keeping Indiana Democrats on hold.

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Planning under way for 2014 Downtown Block Party

    Wabash Avenue will be full of activity Aug. 23 as the 2014 Downtown Terre Haute Block Party takes over five city blocks in a celebration of music, food and events.

    July 8, 2014

  • MET 070814 CATHOLIC WARE.jpg Guys give food bank a lift

    A $14,000 donation Tuesday from Guys Who Give enables Catholic Charities to be at nearly 75 percent of its $2.5 million goal to purchase and operate a new, larger food bank near Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field.

    July 8, 2014 2 Photos

  • wilson,robert.jpg ‘Dangerous’ suspect in police custody

    A man sought by the Vermillion County Sheriff's Department has been nabbed by police in Indianapolis.

    July 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • eBus brings financial empowerment to town

    A 40-foot long mobile classroom is scheduled to roll  into Terre Haute today, carrying what its sponsors call “financial empowerment.”

    July 8, 2014

  • MET 070714 CULVER PHOTO.jpg Maker of history

    A humble man with a heart for helping others is an apt description for Terre Haute resident Curtis B. Culver.
    Culver died July 2 at age 94, leaving behind a legacy of missionary work and social involvement.

    July 7, 2014 3 Photos

  • MET 070714 TRASH TRANSFER.jpg Petitioners push for recycling at fair

    A Vigo County environmental activist hopes to convince the Vigo County Fair Board to start recycling, especially during the county fair, and has started an online petition.

    July 7, 2014 5 Photos

  • MET 070714 SULLIVAN SQ2.jpg Veterans call on commissioners to protect war memorial

    Installing a camera on the second floor of the Sullivan County Courthouse may be one solution to curtailing what several veterans are calling a disgrace to a memorial that honors Americans who gave their lives in service to the country.

    July 7, 2014 4 Photos

  • Schools ethics case: Proposed deal to be reviewed

    The State Ethics Commission is set to review a proposed settlement Thursday in the ethics case against former Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett.

    July 7, 2014

  • Man airlifted to Indy after early morning crash

    A Clay City man sustained non-life-threatening injuries in a head-on collision early Monday morning on Indiana 46 at Riley Road southeast of Terre Haute.

    July 7, 2014

  • Man agrees to plea on youth sex charges

    A Terre Haute man received a suspended sentence in a plea agreement signed Monday as his jury trial was about to commence in Vigo Superior Court 1.

    July 7, 2014

  • Downtown fire victim ID released

    Carbon monoxide poisoning was the cause of death for 61-year-old William Sonnefield, a resident of Deming Center who died in a late Thursday night fire inside his apartment. The Vigo County Coroner’s office released the victim’s name Monday.

    July 7, 2014

  • MET 070614 FORD CONVERT.jpg Farmyard games

    Susan Ooley-Viray’s love of tractors started as a Christmas gift about five years ago from her husband, John.

    July 6, 2014 6 Photos

  • MET 062914 100TH ANNIV.jpg St. George's: Century of faith

    From its formation in a sewing circle of European immigrant women, surviving a fire that destroyed its building, to expanding with a new parish hall, St. George’s Episcopal Church has endured to celebrate its 100th anniversary next Sunday.

    July 6, 2014 6 Photos

  • Turtle Hello.jpg MIKE LUNSFORD: Wet in Wyoming, wandering turtles and other tales of the road

    It is an odd thing, after all the miles I drove a few weeks ago — to the mountains of Wyoming and back again — that today I remember most of all stopping along the road in two places nearly 600 miles apart.

    July 6, 2014 2 Photos

  • STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Financial hardships mount for military families

    Days before the July 4th holiday, Holly Petraeus stood on the steps of the imposing Indiana War Memorial, in front of a bank of cameras, and made a plea to military families: Don’t let pride stand in the way of asking for help.

    July 6, 2014

  • RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS: July 7, 2014

    June 16-20

    July 6, 2014

  • Man in critical condition after July 4 stabbing

    A Sullivan County man remained in critical condition Sunday at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after being stabbed on July 4.

    July 6, 2014

  • MET07514 fair hunt:pete.jpg Day at the fair

    Though the Vigo County Fair officially opens today, Saturday was a busy day around the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds as open class exhibits were entered and judged and commercial vendors made final adjustments to their stands.

    July 5, 2014 11 Photos

  • MET07514 meth house.jpg Finding a meth lab

    Finding out if a property has been the previous site of a clandestine methamphetamine lab has become easier through a new online database recently rolled out by the Indiana State Police.

    July 5, 2014 1 Photo

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Argentina to Face Germany in World Cup Final Kim Kardashian Hits Up Valentino Show in Paris Service Held for 200 Whose Bodies Went Unclaimed Israeli Offensive Escalates in Gaza Attack Police: Prostitute Accused in Overdose Death Raw: 10-year Sentence for Ex-New Orleans Mayor "Hotwives" Spoofs Reality TV Dodgers Found Partly Responsible in Fan Beating Obama Talks Economy, Slams Republicans Raw: World's Tallest Water Slide Opens Thursday Raw: Rocket Explodes Over Israeli Wedding Sterling Testifies in Los Angeles Clippers Trial Typhoon Nears Japan's Main Islands Froome Crashes Out on Bumpy 5th Tour Stage Raw: Brazil Fans Cry After World Cup Loss Former NFL Player 'Excited' Deal Almost Done Raw: Obama Shoots Pool in Denver Obama: 'Photo Ops' Won't Solve Border Crisis Dozens Gain Citizenship As Debate Continues Mississippi River Flooding Likely to Slow Down
NDN Video
Argentina tops Holland in World Cup semifinals Emmy Nominations: What to Watch For News flush: Japanese toilet exhibition making a splash Emma Watson Is Va-Va-Voom in Valentino Photographic 'Proof' That LeBron Is Leaving Miami - @TheBuzzeronFOX Elephant Pool Party at The Oregon Zoo Must-See! Berry and Fallon Form Human Hamster Wheel Pilot buys pizzas for travelers delayed by storm Klose nets record, Germany rout Brazil 7-1 'Purrmanently Sad Cat' Looks Adorably Sad All the Time Pharrell 'humbled' by success of mega-hit 'Happy' Day After: Brazil Reeling in WC Loss Jennifer Lawrence Facepalms Emma Watson Athletes Bare All for ESPN Magazine's Body Issue Raw: Brazil Fans Leaving Stadium Before Half Andi Dorfman Walks Out During the Rose Ceremony 5 Firework Fails for July 4th Justin Bieber Catches Tom Hanks Getting Down, Showing ‘How We Do It Big shoes to fill for Brazil ahead of Germany clash Man's 'Potato Salad' Plea Takes Off on Kickstarter
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity
Real Estate News