HAZLETON, Pa. — The sudden disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa and its enduring legacy will be the focus of a presentation by 2020-21 Penn State Laureate David Witwer during a virtual visit to Penn State Hazleton on Wednesday, Feb. 24.
“Searching for Jimmy Hoffa: The Disappearance of America’s Most Notorious Labor Leader and Why it Still Matters Today” will be held from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. via Zoom. The presentation is free and open to the public.
A powerful labor union leader with ties to organized crime, Hoffa vanished in 1975, the presumed victim of a mob hit. Though he was declared legally dead in 1982, Hoffa’s body has never been found and the case remains unsolved. His story continues to fascinate the public, having been portrayed in made-for-television dramas, true crime books and movies, including the recent Martin Scorsese mobster epic, “The Irishman.” The film is based on the 2004 book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” which explores the alleged ties Hoffa’s disappearance has to Luzerne County and reputed mob boss Russell Bufalino of Kingston.
Witwer, professor of American studies at Penn State Harrisburg, will detail the story of Hoffa’s disappearance, including why it mattered at the time and why it continues to matter. It will link this case to the federal government’s successful war on organized crime and to the shifting fortunes of the American workers who had once been among Hoffa’s most avid supporters.
Witwer has written three books on corruption and labor racketeering and has worked as an investigative analyst on assignment with the New York State Organized Crime Task Force looking into the mob’s role in the construction industry.
“Searching for Jimmy Hoffa: The Disappearance of America’s Most Notorious Labor Leader and Why it Still Matters Today” is a culmination of Witwer’s many years of research into Hoffa and the cultural phenomenon of his disappearance. The presentation shares its name with his current book-in-progress, scheduled for publication in time for the 50th anniversary of Hoffa’s disappearance.
Established in 2008, the Penn State Laureate title is conferred annually on a full-time faculty member in the arts or humanities to bring greater visibility to the arts, humanities, and the University, as well as his or her own work by appearing at events and speaking engagements throughout the Commonwealth.