[Jonestown] Who Was Jim Jones?
Who Was Jim Jones? - By Jason Jeffrey
While the mainstream media, influenced by Cult Awareness Network propaganda,
portray Jim Jones as an 'evil demagogue', a number of independent
'conspiratologists' view Jones as a conscious agent of the CIA. For these
writers Jonestown was simply a CIA organised slave labor camp and the
People's Temple just an elaborate facard hiding a bizarre intelligence agency
Other researchers see Jim Jones as the victim of a U.S. government operation.
His People's Temple fleeing to Guyana to escape intense U.S. government
The People's Temple began in 1954 as the Community Unity Church, a
multiracial Pentecostal-style congregation in Indianapolis, Indiana. The
church was founded by a twenty-three-year-old white preacher, Jim Jones
(1931-1978), who had made a name for himself in Pentecostal circles
throughout the United States as a healer and prophet. By 1955, Jones's
ministry had been renamed the People's Temple Full Gospel Church and was
attracting large crowds for Sunday faith-healing services. Jones later
insisted that the healing dramas of his early ministry were conducted mainly
to draw people who could then be taught his more important messages of
apostolic social justice and equality. The young preacher's efforts to
promote interracial harmony were heralded by the Indianapolis Recorder, a
weekly Black newspaper, and earned Jones the position of director of the
Indianapolis Human Rights Commission in 1961.
During the early 1960s the People's Temple set up soup kitchens, distributed
free groceries and clothing, and organised other community programs. Jones
was ordained as a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in
Religious scholar J. Gordon Melton points out that: "Jim Jones' Peoples'
Temple, labeled a `cult' after the deaths in Jonestown, was in fact a
congregation within mainline Christianity. It was a full member of the
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) which in turn is a member of the
National Council of Churches.
"Liberal Protestants heralded it for its social action program, and during
the mid-1970s, several denominations such as the United Methodist Church
devoted an entire adult church school lesson to extolling its virtues."
In 1961 Jim Jones had a vision in which the American Midwest was destroyed in
a nuclear war and moved his congregation to Ukiah, California, shortly
thereafter. By 1969 Jim Jones opened a large complex called "Happy Acres"
which contained a meeting hall, a swimming pool, a child care facility, and a
senior citizen centre.
Jim Jones's ministry, which now claimed to have twenty thousand members,
expanded into Los Angeles and into the predominantly Black Filmore district
of San Francisco in the 1970's.
The spectacular growth of the People's Temple saw Jim Jones emerge as an
outspoken, uncompromising foe of U.S. imperialism. Through evangelistic
rallies and radio broadcasts Jones addressed literally hundreds of thousands
of people in cities all over the United States. In simple, yet forceful
language, Jim Jones exposed the smug corruption, the blatant hypocrisy, the
abuses, disgraces, and contradictions of American capitalism. The vast
congregation of People's Temple helped plan and attended en masse countless
demonstrations in support of freedom movements, peace, and human rights
causes around the world.
The newspaper of the People's Temple People's Forum, which reached over half
a million people, tackled the sacred icons of the U.S. Establishment
provocatively asking: "The Rockefeller brothers - How they got their fortunes
and increase them daily. Their influence over U.S. policy. How does Henry
Kissinger, e.g., hop right over from being Secretary of State to become a
Board member of the Chase Manhattan Bank?
Jim Jones soon became the target of organised Establishment opposition. He
was attacked and threatened. His family members, children, congregants were
terrorised, beaten and spied on. Attempts were made to infiltrate the
organisation with provocateurs. Peoples Temple was subjected to harassment,
bogus investigations, yellow journalism, and torrents of malicious gossip and
highly publicized lies.
Addressing a rally in 1977, just prior to the exodus of People's Temple to
the rural community in Guyana, Jim Jones, showing signs of the covert
harassment and media attacks, declared "just remember there's nothing worse
than putting someone in the corner when they have tried to do
Jim Jones rallied his congregation with the vision that they were pilgrims on
a quest for enlightenment and safety. In Guyana they would establish a
community of their own - Jonestown - free from the harassment and persecution
they faced in North America. Here at Jonestown they would fully practice
Jone's dictim that "service to my fellow man is the highest service to God."
In a statement he made to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of
Representatives, Rev. John Moore of the United Methodist Church wrote:
"The people went to Jonestown with hope, hope which grew out of a loss of
hope in the U.S. There can be no understanding of movements such as People's
Temple and Jonestown apart from this loss of hope. They migrated, because
they had lost hope in any commitment of the American people or the Congress
to end racial discrimination and injustice. They had lost hope in the people
and the legislature to deal justly and humanely with the poor...Older people
went to Jonestown hoping to become free of purse snatchings, muggings, and
the harshness of the urban scene. Some young people hoped to learn new
skills, or to become free from pressures of peers in the crime and drug
scenes. People went to Jonestown to find freedom from the indignity our
society heaps upon the poor. They went with hope for a simple, quiet
life...They saw themselves leaving a materialistic society where things are
valued more than people. Many went as pioneers to create a new community in
the jungle. Still others saw in Jonestown a vision of a new society, a wave
of the future."
The leading Guyanese newspaper Guyana Chronicle, December 1977 had this to
say about the Jonestown community:
"Some 800 people, all members of the Peoples Temple, are living at the giant
agricultural project at Jonestown, aiming at helping Guyana with farming
while also helping make Jonestown self-sufficient in food and housing.
"At the area known as Jonestown, the Pastor and founder, the Rev. Jim Jones,
has come under fire from reactionary forces in the U.S.A., who see the
prosperous agricultural project and the communal life enjoyed by its members
there as a threat to the old established order."
U.S. Attorney Charles Garry, who visited Jonestown on November 6, 1977, told T
he Sun Reporter on his return to the United States, "I have been in paradise.
I saw a community where there is no such thing as racism." At a press
conference in 1978 the prominent civil rights lawyer Mark Lane stated: "I
have been deeply impressed with what I have seen there [in Jonestown]...It
makes me almost weep to see such an incredible experiment, with such vast
potential for the human spirit and soul of this country, be cruelly assaulted
by the [US government] intelligence organisations..." On another occasion,
Mark Lane called Jonestown "the closest thing on earth like paradise I have
The CIA and their allies launched an elaborate campaign against Jim Jones and
the Jonestown community. Shortly before Christmas 1977 the U.S. government
stopped sending social security payments to senior citizens at Jonestown.
Reports appeared in the North American press that a father of a member of
People's Temple publicly threatened to liberate his son from Jonestown using
In his book The Strongest Poison Mark Lane tells how one opponent of People's
Temple admitted that "during September 1977 he had led a group of men armed
with rifles and bazookas [to Jonestown]... He said that a huge jet was
standing by to carry all of the children back to America... What they found
[in Jonestown] was about ten building and a clearing - no barbed wire, no
guards with automatic weapons, nothing like what they had been led to expect.
For two days, the invaders watched the compound and tried to figure out what
the hell was going on. The only guns they saw were shotguns used to kill
Amid mounting tension and heightened fear of attack by hostile forces the
Central Committee of the Jonestown community held a press conference, via
shortwave radio, with journalists assembled at San Francisco People's Temple
>>From the transcript of this press conference it is obvious that the Jonestown
community were a people under siege. In a desperate attempt to end the
harassment engineered by hostile U.S. agencies, a People's Temple spokesman
read a prepared statement. It said in part: "Finally we would like to address
ourselves to the affect that we prefer to resist harassment and persecution
even if it means death...We affirm before we will submit quietly to the
interminable plotting and persecution of this politically motivated
conspiracy, we will resist actively putting our lives on the line if it comes
to that...We choose as our model not those who walked submissively into gas
ovens but the valiant heroes of the Warsaw ghetto."
Clearly this was not the plea of a 'suicide cult'. Pushed into a corner the
people of Jonestown made a public declaration to resist and if necessary,
fight any aggression against their community. Consequently late in 1977 a
small security force was set up to protect Jonestown. In a final, desperate
bid to escape continued persecution and avoid conflict Jim Jones announced
that the people of Jonestown had decided to leave Guyana and move to the
As part of the preparations to relocate to the U.S.S.R. People's Temple
developed close contact with the Soviet Embassy in Guyana. On September 27,
1978 the Soviet Consul Fyodor Timofeyev made a visit to Jonestown.
The Soviet Consul found a thriving community in the jungle of Guyana. Dr.
Nikolai Fedorovsky accompanied the Consul to Jonestown. Jim Jones explained
that they were expecting more than a hundred new arrivals. "I am not sure
they'll be able to get through to us here," Jones told the Russian doctor.
Adding that:"Somebody must have it in for us over there, in the States. Even
the books, tools, and many other things reach us in an unstable state. The
same happens to the medical supplies we receive from the USA. This must all
be the job of the CIA."
Dr. Fedorovsky inspected Jonestown's medical dispensary. In The Jonestown
Carnage, he states "the pharmacy did not impress me very much. Everything
here was very much like in any other pharmacy of this type. Later, after the
terrible events in Jonestown I tried to recall if there had been anything
unusual about it. Cyanide? No, I did not see any. Tranquillizers and
sedatives in tablets? Yes, I saw them, but only in moderate quantities that
did not arouse suspicion. And how many of these preparations would be
required to kill almost a thousand people? All that did not hang together.
And another discrepancy: where did all those numerous ampule injectors come
from, the ones which, according to American newspapers, the victims of the
Guyana massacre used to inject the killer-poison?"
Dr. Fedorovsky's observations, detailed in the 1987 Soviet Progress Press
book The Jonestown Carnage, are significant. After the massacre Guyanese
troops reportedly discovered a large cache of drugs, enough to drug the
entire population of Georgetown, Guyana. One footlocker contained 11,000 does
of thorazine, a dangerous tranquilizer. Drugs used in the notorious CIA
MKULTRA project were also found in abundance. Were these drugs planted in
Jonestown by the killers?
Back in the United States, The Sun Reporter, October 5, 1978 carried an
article titled People's Temple Strikes Back. Conspiracy to Destroy Jonestown
Charged. The report announced that: "People's Temple plans to launch a
massive, multi-million-dollar lawsuit against various government agencies,
which the temple says have conspired to disrupt its activities and destroy
Mark Lane was quoted as saying "the intelligence community in the United
States has participated in deliberate efforts to destroy People's Temple, Jim
Jones and Jonestown".
Lane said he thought the government targeted People's Temple because its
experiment in socialist living was an "embarrassment" for the United States
government. "Twelve hundred Americans have fled to the jungles of Guyana in
search of human rights and an opportunity to lead fulfilling
lives-opportunities that are not available to them in the ghettos of
America," Lane added.
The last visitor to Jim Jones and the People's Temple in Jonestown was U.S.
Congressman Leo Ryan. Accompanied by reporters, 'concerned' relatives of
Jonestown residents and People's Temple lawyer's Mark Lane and Charles Garry,
Leo Ryan arrived on November 17, 1978.
Congressman Ryan was warmly received at Jonestown and toured the community.
After dinner Ryan told the assembled crowd: "I can tell you right now that by
the few conversations I've had with some of the folks here already this
evening that...there are some people who believe this is the best thing that
ever happened in their whole lives."
People's Temple member Richard Tropp told Washington Post reporter Charles
Krause that Jonestown was a living and working experiment in how society
should work. "I think it's a tragedy we couldn't do it in the United States."
Asked by Krause why he thought the People's Temple was under attack in the
U.S., Tropp replied, "Because we believe there is some group, some force that
is working to disrupt and agitate against the People's Temple". (Guyana
Leo Ryan told Jim Jones that Jonestown was a "beautiful place" and he found
no proof of the allegations about the Temple which were in circulation in the
United States. Ryan and the rest of his group left for the nearby airstrip.
Charles Krause sums up the results of the investigation into Jonestown:
"I rather admired Jim Jones's goals... The People's Temple hadn't struck me
as a crazy fringe cult... It seemed to me that the People's Temple had a
legitimate purpose, a noble purpose, and was more or less succeeding... No
one...had offered any proof that the 900 or so people at Jonestown were being
starved, mistreated, or held against their will... The hundreds of people
still at Jonestown, who had chosen not to defect, seemed ample proof that
they were relatively content." (Guyana Massacre)
Preparing to board a small aircraft for the return journey Congressman Leo
Ryan and some members of his entourage were shot and killed. News of the
assassination soon reached Jonestown, panic swept the community.
What happened on the night of November 18? Genuine information was supplied
by those few people who survived the massacre and escaped into the jungle.
They said that Jim Jones had called a general meeting of all the residents of
Jonestown in order to set out a course of action in the wake of Ryan's
Attorney Mark Lane, who was at Jonestown, told a November 20 press conference
in Georgetown, Guyana, that he counted 85 bursts of semi-automatic weapons
fire when the community gathered for the supposed "mass suicide". Jim Jones
shouted "Mother, mother, mother, mother!" Lane said. "Then there was the
first burst of shooting." Lane said he and lawyer Charles Garry then fled
into the jungle, but they heard "lots of gunfire and people screaming,
Jim Jones was found days later at the foot of his chair in the centre of the
meeting hall. He had been killed by a gunshot to the head. Surrounding him
were dead bodies of hundreds of members of People's Temple.
Prof. I.R. Grigulevich, a distinguished Member of the USSR Academy of
Sciences, after studying the Jonestown massacre wrote:
"The United States has closed the case of the People's Temple by dismissing
it as 'one of those irrational episodes in our mad world'. A thousand
political protestants were declared 'votaries of a cult of death', a bunch of
lunatics who committed an unparalleled act of mass suicide. This version
which had been tailored long before the Jonestown massacre not only made it
possible to conceal the crime but also to use it for discrediting the
People's Temple: it was labled a 'sect of suicides' and was formally
"In spite of the incontestable proof that the Jonestown commune had been
deliberately destroyed, the authorities in Washington...did not stir so much
as a finger to conduct a fair and objective investigation into the tragic
death of several hundreds of their fellow-countrymen. On the contrary, the
authorities in Washington went to great pains to put the lid on the whole
"The Jonestown massacre was part of an extensive complex of actions
undertaken by U.S. punitive agencies (Operation 'Chaos' and others), whose
goal was to clamp down on political movements, such as the Black Panthers,
the Weathermen, the New Left, etc. To carry out this program, the CIA set up
a highly secret group concerned with 'special operations'...
"We hope that now everybody will know about the act of savagery committed by
the American imperialists in Guyana in order to suppress political dissent,
to kill those who dared to build a new life free from the omnipotence of
capital. The crime committed by the CIA laid bare the monstrous hypocrisy of
the Washington administration which spares no words about defense of human
rights. It was the Washington administration that gave the go-ahead for the
extermination of people in the Guyanese jungles, those men and women for whom
human rights became a reality only after they had made a clean break with the
American capitalist system.
"The political refugees from the United States were killed because they had
thrown down the gauntlet to the oppressive regime in the United States."
Extracted from New Dawn No. 29 (January-March, 1995)
© 1995 by New Dawn International News Service,
GPO Box 3126FF, Melbourne, 3001, Australia
THE PEOPLE'S TEMPLE (JIM JONES)
Jonestown and Official San Francisco: The Untold Story
Instant replay - July 25, 1976
"Rev. Jones is regarded among government officials,
civic and religious leaders, and particularly the black
community and working class people, with utter respect..."
- Willie Brown Jr.
Jonestown itself has all but vanished, stripped by villagers and consumed
by a fire in the early 1980s. Some believe that Jones was linked to the
CIA and that the Jonestown massacre was in fact a mind control experiment.
If it was, it was a total success. Years later, serial killer Henry Lee
Lucas confessed that he did indeed personally delivered the cyanide to his
"good friend, Jim Jones."
Kathleen Kinsolving Willmann Answers Students' Questions
about Jonestown Project
Jonestown Audiotape Primary Project (Trnascribed)
JIM JONES AND HIS BLOODY HANDS
Examining the Peoples Temple - Rice Univ.
Survivors Remember People's Temple, Jonestown
"Welcome to Jonestown, Peoples Temple Agricultural Project" http://web.archive.org/web/20001010133320/http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~remoore/jonestown/contents.html
Peoples Temple (Jonestown) Special Report!!
Waco Heats Up Again!
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