Hoffa in Tennessee
The Chattanooga Trial That Brought Down an Icon
By the early 1960s, Jimmy Hoffa had a stranglehold on the presidency of the Teamsters Union. However, his nemesis, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was convinced that Hoffa was a corrupt force whose heavy-handed influence over the union threatened the nation. As Attorney General, Kennedy established a “Get Hoffa Squad” that set out to unearth criminal wrongdoing by the labor leader in order to remove him from power. A number of criminal trials in the 1950s and early 1960s resulted in not-guilty verdicts for Hoffa. Matters would finally come to head in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in a climatic, but often overlooked, historical moment chronicled by Maury Nicely in this engrossing book.
After a Christmastime 1962 acquittal in Nashville of charges that Hoffa had illegally received funds from a trucking company in exchange for settling a costly strike, it was discovered that several attempts had been made to bribe jurors. Fresh charges of jury tampering in that case were quickly filed against Hoffa and five others. Moved to Chattanooga, the new trial was held before a young, relatively untested federal judge named Frank Wilson. The six-week courtroom conflict would devolve into a virtual slugfest in which the defense team felt was necessary to turn its ire against Wilson, hoping to provoke an error and cause a mistrial. As Nicely shows in vivid detail, Hoffa’s Chattanooga trial became the story of a lone, embattled judge struggling mightily to control a legal proceeding that teetered on the edge of bedlam, threatening to spin out of control. In the end, Hoffa was convicted-an extraordinary change of fortune that presaged his downfall and mysterious disappearance a decade later.
In examining how justice prevailed in the face of a battering assault on the judicial system, Hoffa in Tennessee demonstrates how a Chattanooga courtroom became a crucial tipping point in Jimmy Hoffa’s career, the beginning of the end for a man long perceived as indomitable.
MAURY NICELY is an attorney from Chattanooga. He is the author of Chattanooga Walking Tour & Historic Guide.