Jim (1931) Jones
- Category : 1931-births
- Type : GP
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Split - Large
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Explanation 2
American cult figure, the Leader of The People's Temple. In 1977, he led his followers from San Francisco to Guyana. Jones was known as a manic-depressive who suffered from paranoia and delusions. However, he held an incredible power of persuasion and led nearly 1000 people, including himself, to a mass suicide on 19 November 1978, Georgetown, Guyana.
Jones' mother, Lynetta Jones, was a young anthropologist trying to decide between her career or marriage. A dream of her dead mother telling her she would bear a son who would right the wrongs of the world helped make her decision. She was convinced that her child was a messiah. His father, James Thurmond Jones, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and died when Jim was young. His mother worked in a factory and kept the vision of her dream. Jim was raised a Methodist and played pretend-church as a child. At seven, a neighbor recalled he would lace his speeches with calls for strict discipline. His high-school classmates recall that he was popular but not a leader, noticing his growing interest in religion.
After graduating from Richmond High School, near Lynn, Indiana, Jones had ten years of on-and-off studies before receiving his BA degree from Butler University. He worked part-time as a hospital orderly, also becoming pastor of a Methodist church in Indianapolis, Indiana where his strong views on integration made him a target of bigots. Disenchanted with the Methodist faith, he created his own church, the Community National Church.
By 1956, he opened the first Peoples Temple in Indianapolis. The Temple formed a soup kitchen, an employment desk to help people find jobs, and a nursing home. His mother's dream seemed to be self-fulfilling. In 1961, Mayor Boswell appointed Jones as director of the Indianapolis' Human Rights Commission. Soon he was noticed for his power to relate to people and for building their self-esteem. He was also beginning to demand fierce personal loyalty from his followers and flexing his capitalist muscle by setting up several corporations, which profited under religious nonprofit protection. Soon he was disparaging traditional biblical tenets, demanding that his religious philosophies be followed instead. Stating his belief that a nuclear holocaust was coming, he moved his family to what he considered a safe spot in April 1962, a Brazilian city 250 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. He tried his brand of evangelizing but did not meet with the success he had attained in the U.S.
He visited Guyana in 1963, where his first vision of a remote utopian settlement was formed. His increasing fears and paranoia took him home to Indiana with a determination to make money and a newly found gift of extreme exaggeration. He moved the Temple to northern California, near Ukiah in 1965. There he built a new flock using fraudulent "healing" performances to win worshipers and encouraged members to inform on spouses or children who transgressed his rules of loyalty. A hierarchy of trusted members formed, ones who would eventually help carry out his last order for mass suicide. Members' money and possessions were to be freely given to Jones at his command, along with sexual favors. In 1971 Jones' purchased new temples in San Francisco's Fillmore district and in Los Angeles. His public relations talents brought him political clout in 1975 when he delivered a bloc of votes helping liberal Democrat George Moscone win the mayoralty race. Offered a seat on the City's Human Rights Commission, Jones thought it wasn't good enough, turning it down until he was made Chair of the Housing Authority. He was soon greeting Gov. Jerry Brown, Vice Presidential candidate Walter Mondale and Rosalynn Carter. All this attention brought the curiosity of newspaper reporters who amassed enough data to devastate The People's Temple. When Jones' strong-arm tactics to squelch the story failed, he prepared to move to a leased tract of 27,000 acres in Guyana.
Black followers were told they would be placed in concentration camps if they remained behind and Whites were informed they were on a CIA "enemies" list along with threats of blackmail and reprisals against defectors. Jones managed to be in Guyana when the 1 April 1977 edition of "New West" appeared. Incredibly, in light of the cruelty, stealing and sexual pervasion revealed in the article, 800 people were ready to follow him to Guyana. Jones' health began to deteriorate: his lungs were infected with a fungus, and he had a prostate condition. His blood pressure soared and his temperature ranged between 101 and 105; he subsisted on increasing dosages of drugs.
When Congressman Leo Ryan became concerned enough about the affairs of The People's Temple to embark on a fact-finding trip with Temple lawyers and a team of reporters, Jones' paranoia was at an all-time high. After a day and night at Jonestown, the Jones compound, Ryan and the reporters had ferreted out enough information to take home a negative report despite the Herculean attempts by Jones' followers to keep the compound an appearance of utopia. Ryan and his entourage were at the small airport an hour away from Jonestown preparing to return home when a tractor trailer pulled onto the runway with armed People's Temple gunmen. They fired on the party, killing Ryan, several newsmen and Temple members attempting to leave with the congressional party. At the same time, the camp doctor was ordered to prepare a vat of strawberry flavor-aide, dumping in a quantity of painkillers and tranquilizers as well as jugs of cyanide. The members of Jonestown drank the poison as ordered and Jones put a bullet through his head. Over 900 bodies were counted. A box of over 800 passports were found, Social Security checks of elderly members and a million dollars in cash.
While a hospital orderly, he met and married nurse, Marceline Baldwin. They had one son of their own and adopted eight children of varying racial backgrounds.