Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance is one of the 20th century’s great mysteries. But many believe Hoffa also could have been involved in another of the era’s great mysteries—the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Numerous conspiracy theories about Kennedy’s murder have been floated since 1963. However, two official investigations—the Warren Commission and House Select Committee on Assassinations—agreed on one key point. Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots from the Texas Book Depository. Two of those bullets struck and killed Kennedy.
While the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald acted alone, the House Committee believed Oswald likely plotted with others.
They also ruled out the involvement of several popular targets for conspiracy buffs such as the CIA and the Cuban government. But they did say organized crime figures were possibly involved.
That’s where Hoffa figures in. Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, had waged war on mafia involvement with unions. The Teamsters and Hoffa were particular targets of the Kennedys anti-racketeering efforts.
“I was the first to allege that Hoffa, [Carlos] Marcello, and [Santos] Trafficante had arranged and executed the President’s murder,” said Dan Moldea, author of The Hoffa Wars. “A year after the publication of my book, the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Hoffa, Marcello, and Trafficante had the ‘motive, means, and opportunity’ to commit this crime.”
Moldea, like many historians, believe Hoffa and the mob assumed—correctly—that Kennedy’s death would end Bobby Kennedy’s tenure as Attorney General. So the assassination effectively ended the government’s crackdown on labor racketeering.
Before he died, Frank Sheeran claimed he killed Hoffa in his book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” co-written by Charles Brandt. Sheeran also said he was a part of the Kennedy plot.
“Frank’s role was unwitting,” Brandt said. “He was given rifles by Genovese capo Tony Provenzano to deliver to an airstrip in Baltimore to another Genovese made man. Frank had no idea why until Jack Ruby shot Oswald. Frank knew Ruby and knew that Hoffa knew Ruby. But Frank asked no questions of anyone.”
Brandt also says Marcello hinted at his involvement several times in his life.
"While in Texarkana Federal prison, during a two-day period in which Marcello was having blood pressure problems and was sent to the prison hospital, Marcello spoke to medical attendants as if they were members of his crime family," said Brandt. "On three occasions he told them he had just met in New York with 'Provenzano' and they would soon be celebrating because they were 'going to get that smiling m.f. Kennedy in Dallas.'"
While JFK conspiracy theories are common, several independent investigations agree with the Warren Commission that Oswald truly was a lone gunman. Journalist Gerald Posner and Charles Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi independently argued that Oswald acted alone in their books Case Closed and Reclaiming History.
Walter Sheridan, a former FBI agent and Robert Kennedy aid during the Hoffa investigations, also believed Oswald was a lone gunman. In 1967, he produced an NBC special that demonstrated Oswald could have fired three shots and hit Kennedy from his perch in the Book Depository.
Moldea, who calls Sheridan a mentor, still believes there was a larger plot: “The chief counsel of the [assassination] committee, G. Robert Blakey, declared, ‘the mob did it. It’s a historical fact.’”
However, the committee never tied Hoffa or anyone else to Oswald and the assassination.
While Moldea believes Hoffa and the mob were likely involved in the Kennedy assassination, he is critical of the more fantastic conspiracy theories, including the late Jim Garrison’s investigation.
Kevin Costner portrayed Garrison, who had been New Orleans’ District Attorney, in Oliver Stone’s controversial film JFK. Contrary to the Hollywood image, Moldea says Garrison was actually a crony of New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello.
“Later, when [Hoffa and Marcello attorney Frank] Ragano turned against the Mafia, he corroborated [Edward] Partin’s story, telling me that Garrison’s entire investigation of JFK’s murder was nothing more than a cynical attempt to deflect public attention away from Carlos Marcello.” said Moldea.
The circumstantial evidence that Hoffa and the mob wanted to kill Kennedy may be strong, but conclusive evidence of their actual involvement in the events of November 22, 1963 is likely lost to history.