What happened to the survivors of Peoples Temple?

Following the deaths in November 1978, many Temple members who’d been in Redwood Valley, San Francisco and Los Angeles were interviewed by local police officials and the FBI. In addition, all of the survivors flying back from Guyana to the United States – principally to New York – were questioned at length by the FBI before they were permitted to return home. A few members of the Temple remained in Guyana through May 1979 to wrap up the group’s affairs, then returned to the U.S. The last Temple member to leave Guyana was Chuck Beikman, who returned to Indiana in 1983 following a five-year prison sentence in connection with the deaths of Sharon Amos and her three children at the Temple’s Georgetown house in Lamaha Gardens.

One thing almost all surviving members faced was the great stigma attached to being part of Peoples Temple. Especially those who had been in Guyana faced prejudice, harassment, and loss of jobs. They were called murderers and baby-killers. Having lost the only home they had known for years, a number of them lived together for several months for mutual support and comfort before venturing out to build new lives on their own.

In the years since, most survivors have gone on to lives of quiet anonymity in the United States. As they did when they entered the Temple, they represent a true cross-section of American life, with careers in the law, medicine, the ministry, communications, government and public service, and business. As could be expected with a group of people more than 30 years after an event, a number of have since died.

More recently, a number of survivors have begun to reestablish connections with old friends – and even once-bitter foes – from their Temple days. While some of these reunions happen in the context of gatherings at Evergreen Cemetery every November 18 or during weekend retreats over July 4, most of the rekindled relationships have developed on a private, one-to-one basis.

The strength of the survivors come through most vividly in the stories, observations and lessons they recount, and many of these writings have been collected here on this site. In addition, a number have agreed to make themselves available to scholars, students and reporters through the Speaker’s Bureau on the Resources list.

Last modified on May 24th, 2014.
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