DETROIT -- Robert Holmes, who helped a teenage James Hoffa launch his career as a labor organizer and then served for decades as a Teamsters Union official, has died. He was 94.
Mr. Holmes died of heart failure at Harper Hospital in Detroit, family members said Sunday.
''He was a great leader who helped found the modern Teamsters as we know it," James P. Hoffa, Hoffa's son and the general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, told The Detroit News. ''Both he and my dad were young men fighting for justice on the job."
The elder Hoffa, Mr. Holmes, and a co-worker were credited with planting the seed for the Teamsters when they organized a 1931 strike at a Detroit grocery warehouse where they worked.
Until 1989, Mr. Holmes served as the Teamsters' international vice president, director of the union's 13-state Central Conference, and president of Local 337 in Detroit.
Hoffa disappeared in 1975 and is presumed dead. Investigators believe mob figures had him killed to prevent him from regaining the union presidency after he served time in prison for jury tampering.
Federal authorities waged a long legal battle to force the Teamsters union to reform and curb alleged mob influence. In 1989, Mr. Holmes, along with two other international vice presidents, resigned from the union executive board and agreed to endorse election reforms and other steps sought by the government.
At a memorial service in 1995 marking 20 years since Hoffa's disappearance, Mr. Holmes lamented the loss of his 43-year colleague and close friend.
''In life, I enjoyed every minute of my time with him," he said. ''I knew a different Jimmy Hoffa than what was portrayed."