Jim Jones interviewed by Cecil Williams, April 1976

[Editor’s note: BB-17-mm-1 – mm-5 is a transcript of an conversation which Jim Jones had on Vibrations, an interview program San Francisco television station KPIX hosted by Cecil Williams of Glide United Methodist Church. The interview – transcribed from the Temple’s tape of the conversation – appears as Part 3 of Tape 683, with links to both a summary and the MP3 of the interview. There are minor differences between the two versions.]


CHANNEL 5 (KPIX) San Francisco

VIBRATIONS – Cecil Williams, host


Williams: People who are not only doing things, but people who are really bringing about change in our society. One cannot talk about it at all, unless one mentions the name, the Reverend Jim Jones. Jim Jones, who is the pastor of the Peoples Temple Christian Church. He is charismatic, he is serious about what he is doing, he is an excellent spokesman, a great articulator– What else can I say about you, Jim, except the fact that I’m delighted that you’re on our show today.

Jones: Thank you very much.

Williams: And we’re going to be talking to this man, and what he is about, as soon as we come back.

Music. Pause.

Williams: Reverend Jim Jones, Peoples Temple Christian Church. You know, I really don’t sit and talk with personalities on a one-to-one basis that often, but when I do, I try to bring to you, the viewers, the very most important people, in regards to this kind of thing. And I’ve brought to you a minister, you know. That’s something that’s very difficult for me to do, unless he’s a unique minister, and he is. He is the man today. Jim, I’m amazed by you. You know, many times I can’t find words, because you are sometimes indescribable. You are a very important person, a very powerful person. You are a prophet in this time, and ahead of his time too. How did this come about, starting with yourself, moving in the direction that you are moving in?

Jones: I saw a need, I guess, responding to it the best I could. It always seems so insignificant, Cecil, compared to the vast needs around you. That’s how I got started, just looking at the needs.

Williams: And when you talk about looking at the needs, you of course are relating to a lot of needs, not only in northern California and in the state of California, but needs throughout the country, as well as needs throughout the world. We’re going to be talking about some of those needs, but let’s focus in on them . Why did you say, look, we gotta meet some needs and go about getting at those needs.

Jones:  I feel like I’m the jack of all trades sometimes, and master of none. Which direction?

Williams:  Let’s just talk about one in particular, Jim. One has to do with the fact that first of all, what are the things that you do, is when it comes to issues, and especially when it comes to defending people who have to face injustices, you are always there, one way or the other. I think about for instance the situation in regards to the communications industry, the press.

Jones:  I thought [President Richard] Nixon was coming down severely upon the press, and of course, without the [missing words from transcript, provided at Tape 638: “Fourth and Fifth Estate”], where are we? As was clarified in the Watergate situation. We were concerned about the repression this represents, so we thought that we had to get out there and represent different newsmen who were under attack because of their sources. And I guess our support, funding spread all over the United States, [reporter Bill] Farr first and then the Fresno Bee, and then we gave monies to various news associations. We’re very concerned about a free press.

Williams: Some even here in the Bay Area.

Jones: Oh yes.

Williams: In regards to the free press, what were you really trying to say? That it should take place, that in fact any information the press feels that it must keep confidential, it should be given that right to do so.

Jones: It has to, because of the intimidations that we’ve seen in such instances as Watergate. The press has to be able to keep their sources, and I thought that our whole democratic fabric




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was being threatened. Not only myself, but our congregation here of 8000. It wasn’t something unique to me. We’re very much concerned that the press has the right to monitor society and be able to regulate excesses, help bring conscience to the community. We just felt there was nothing left for us to do. We had to respond. Because it seemed that Mr. Nixon was on a tirade against the press.

Williams: And yet there’re times, Jim, that you and I and others are approached by the press and they do disservice to us.

Jones: Some. Every once in a while.

Williams: We are misquoted, we are taken out of context and that kind of thing. How do you deal with that kind of thing, you know, when it happens to you. You’re often in the press. You’re often talked about.

Jones: I don’t know what one can do. I guess we have to take our chances for the negative aspects in order to allow the press to be free. We have to take the chance that there’ll be a few that will practice yellow journalism, and I think there are a few, and I know one that got us both, so I don’t get too much worried about it, as long as, the old saying goes, if they can print my name right in the paper. But we have to take the chance to the excess. It hurts when press is not responsible. I’ve seen that in your case, and in myself. But still, the press is the bulwark of democracy.

Williams: Jim, you’ve taken a chance. You’ve taken a chance, because you’ve got all kinds of people in the Peoples Temple Christian Church. How far does your constituency extend? Again, how many places?

Jones: We have 8000 in San Francisco. Then we have a church that I’ve founded– We’re all related with the Disciples of Christ, a two-million denomination. And then I have 10,000 members in our Los Angeles parish. I don’t know the breakdown of Fresno, Bakersfield, and Sacramento, but it’s pretty sizeable. And then in Redwood Valley, California, we have a pretty sizeable congregation up north around the Ukiah area.

Williams: Why did you begin to work with various racial and ethnic groups, trying to bring them together?

Jones: It seems to me that it was just right that we be together. And I thought of all places, if Jesus Christ did not teach inclusiveness. He said, we were our brother’s keeper, and God is no respecter of persons. And certainly I believe in the voluntary type of approach to social problems. We are somewhat Jeffersonian, the government that governs least governs best. And if the church doesn’t take its responsibility, where are we? It seems to me that the church had to initiate responsibility.

Williams: Well, you have taken a great deal of responsibility. For instance, let’s talk just a little bit about some of the things that you’re engaged in, in regards to the treatment of people. One in particular, drugs, people that are strung out on dope, things like that. What do you do, Jim? What have you come up on in regards to that kind of issue? How do you get at this issue?

Jones: In our situation, we bring them into our homes. My wife and I have had many in our home. Love. Just a little bit of love. You don’t have to have a great deal of professional skill. Our recidivism rate is very low on heroin, for instance. But this savvy professional know-how, I don’t think we have so much in that area. We have two psychologists working with us. I have seen great achievements being made by someone who just takes them into their home.

Williams: It takes you a lot of your time too, Jim.

Jones: Yes, a great deal.




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Williams: Jim, you got involved in one particular case of of a black young woman.

Jones: Marie Duckett.

Williams: Marie Duckett. Tell us a little bit about that.

Jones: She was an amazing person. She came hooked on a habit of about four hundred dollars a day, and of course she was involved in every type of crime that she could possibly get into to maintain that habit. Of course, it was no time, before she completely rehabilitated herself. I have to allow the emphasis to be kept on the individual. We gave her support and acceptance. We found out later that she had actually left probation, she had been a fugitive from two different sentences, and when she brought this to our attention, the church decided, well, we’re going to get in there and fight to straighten up her record, and we were able to achieve that by solidarity and appealing to the probation department, and the judge was most sympathetic, he allowed her probation to continue, and I think it’s going to be finished about May seventh.

Williams:  You know, I’m just gonna move along with you here, because I’ve got so much to cover, Jim. Let’s talk about other people that you’ve given support, other causes that you’ve given support. for instance, Angela Davis [University of California professor who was fired over her membership in the Communist Party]. You did support her. Why did you feel that you had to support her?

Jones: I believe that when one person’s rights are affected, everyone’s is. We supported a John Bircher on one occasion. It seemed to me that Angela was the victim of political oppression. I don’t care whether she’s a communist or if she’s a member of the Nazi party. I believe in the First Amendment rights. I think that’s very essential. It was Pastor [Martin] Niemoller who said when they came for the communist, I did nothing, because I wasn’t a communist. When they came for the Jews, I had typical Protestant prejudices, and I didn’t react. When they came for the Catholics and trade unionists, the same type of response. When they got around to coming after me, there was nobody left to defend me. It was enlightened self-interest. I don’t believe we can restrict anyone’s right of freedom of speech.

Williams:  Well, you know, that puts you in a category of being– you can easily be called a communist, just by supporting the rights of a communist.

Jones: I know that. I don’t really care about that.

Williams: Jim, you’ve been involved in a more recent defense and standing up for a person, namely [Native American activist] Dennis Banks. Now, before we get into that, I just got a sign from the man who says, Take a break. So so we’re gonna take a break. We’ll come back and talk to Jim Jones about Dennis Banks in just a minute.

Music. Tape edit. Music.

Williams: We’re talking to the Reverend Jim Jones from the Peoples Temple Christian Church. A vast number of people he’s brought together, of all colors, of all ethnic backgrounds, all socio-economic levels. Jim, you have been working very hard to guarantee at least Dennis some equity in regards to what he’s going through as it relates to his extradition. What are you doing in regards to Dennis Banks at this point? What are you doing? I read a very fascinating story not too long ago about something that you did in bringing his family together. Tell us about that.

Jones: His wife, Kamook, suffered a great deal of maltreatment. Her baby was born behind bars, they named her Iron Door Woman, and she wasn’t even allowed the normal process of her breasts for the milk to be taken care of, so that she developed infections. She’d been there for four months. We felt as a congregation that we had to respond. Dennis Banks is a good man. We’ve helped a lot of people, and when they get their health, they’re gone. The moment we helped this man – I think we raised $20,000 as a bond for her – he came back time and time again, responding with such graciousness, warmth and compassion. He wept before a congregation of several thousand, and it was really spontaneous. This is a good man. I think [reporter James] Schermerhorn said in the Examiner, that all of his witnesses, and even his counsel, had been intimidated by the state




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where he had come from, and even the Iowa Methodist put up his bond, and they said he had no other choice but to leave, because there was even threats put out on every one of those witnesses, and most people have the feeling– in one of the, I think, one of the district attorneys said that if he comes back, the best resolution– [balance of paragraph not included in KPIX transcript] for the Indian movement is a bullet in Dennis Banks’ head. And we have to face the fact that the one that was arrested with him, Annie, I’ve forgotten her last name [American Indian Movement (AIM) activist Anna Mae Pictou Aquash], they said she died of exposure, but there was pressure brought to bear, and she was exhumed, and they found a bullet at close range. And it looks pretty much like a conspiracy.

Williams: See, that’s why you’re so important, because you get out there, when the water is rough, you get out there when the wind is blowing, very strong currents against people. And you in many ways, and the people that you work with, help change that current and that tide, in regards to the lives of people. I want to deal with that in just a few minutes. You did something in the Tenderloin area for the senior citizens. They were about to lose protection. What happened in that situation? That’s my area now, that’s where I’m located. And yet you come down getting in on the problems that we face down there.

Jones: Well, you get into problems everywhere so we thought we would help you out a little bit. This situation touched us. Here is an inter-racial group of ex-Vietnam veterans who had a warm relationship, with predominantly white citizens, who had no love in their life, couldn’t even get someone to give them some groceries, and out of their meager salaries, they were helping support these senior citizens. And so again, the church felt that they should respond. The program was about to go down the tubes. We came up with the six thousand dollars to tide them over until they got funded. And they’re funded, and I am very happy that that was one of the successes.

Williams: Another thing I want to say is that on November 30 last year, when I had sort of like a culmination of my ten years in San Francisco, we called it the change agents coming together, a celebration for change. And at that particular time the Center for Self-Determination, a new program we began at Glide, – had a benefit, and it was Jim Jones who brought 1500 people to that benefit, and who bought tickets, close to 6000 dollars worth of tickets to that benefit. It was this man here and his people that did that. Jim, let’s go on. I want to publicly say that to the people what you’ve done for me, but not only that, but just being a brother, being a close friend, where we can talk with each other.

Jones: Well, I wasn’t doing it for you personally, Cecil, I think the community has to realize that if they are concerned about tyranny, communistic or fascistic, they are going to support groups such as yourself and get involved in everything, and show the people who feel alienated that they have a chance to work within society. It wasn’t just a personal friendship. We approve of the things you’re doing.

Williams: Let’s talk about something that you’ve got going in South America. You’ve got quite a resourceful relationship, and some very fascinating things taking place down there. What have you got to say for it?

Jones: We have an agricultural mission there on several thousand acres that we acquired from the Republic of Guyana. For instance, last week, we brought in 60,000 pounds of yams, and that goes a long way to help with the poverty. Plus it’s not a paternalistic-type of Christian mission. We give employment to about 200 people. And again, that helps to alter the ugly American image, and combat the forces of tyranny.

Williams: That kind of response certainly does help. As you say, it is important to give jobs . But you see, that’s the way you are. You do that constantly. You’ve made your stand. You keep making your stand. You will continue to make your stand. Do you know, the interesting thing about this man is the fact that that you have a lot of resources, in regards to taking care of not only people, but what do you do? Why did you get interested in animals?

Jones: Well, I’m very sensitive about animals, [balance of paragraph not included in KPIX transcript] but I think sensitive to life, there’s some sort of correlation, I wouldn’t want to generalize. I’ve notice people who are hardened to animals often– It carries over, and they’re hardened to humans. Of course, you have strange contradictions, where someone will give all sorts of regard, as Adolf Hitler did, for his animal, and have no regards for human beings. But we feel that you have to have sensitivity for the total life, and we’re concerned that we take in as many animals as we can and neuter them – there’s a terrible overpopulation and such cruel treatment. I am sure you’re familiar with the way they’re exterminated, some of them are crowded into a vat, or a gas chamber meant for one, they throw 16, 17 dogs in this kind of a situation. We’re just opposed to cruelty. We like to help wherever there’s need, and there’s a great need with animals. And so, we find ourselves in every facet of life, we have geriatric homes, we have a children’s home for retarded youngsters, I can– and we have a free legal services, a medical examination facility under doctors’ auspices, physical therapist and nurse practitioners and R.N.s, particularly senior citizens in the lower socio-economic income level, they have a time with arthritis, and we have– we’re equipped with (unintelligible medical term) ultrasonic treatment, that we–

Williams: Do you treat everybody?

Jones: Oh yes.

Williams: You wouldn’t hold back on anybody.

Jones: No. No membership requirement.




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Williams: You don’t have to become members or nothing like that, to start following some kind of a discipline that you put on their heads.

Jones: No, no.­ I don’t believe in this business of having to say a prayer before they get in.

Williams: Jim, you do have, one thing that you are involved in, has to do with something that that you and I call a healing ministry. Both of us. And a lot of people talk about the healing ministry. I had a sister who had cancer 12 years ago, she was operated on, the doctors gave her up, said in three months she would be gone. My sister is still alive, teaching school, back to health she’s cured. She has a lot of faith. She said, I will not, I will not give up.

Jones: There is a place indeed for a responsible, sane spiritual healing. It must be in conjunction with medical science, because we know there’s no panacea. We’ve had similar remissions. I was just thinking while you talked. There was a lovely Russian lady who– the metastasis of cancer was so thorough that each of her lymph glands was swollen like a ball. And similarly, she had faith. There is a tremendous dimension that we’re unfamiliar with, and of course, if even in the Soviet Union, a materialistic nation supposedly, is spending $12 million a year to study paranormal faculty, therapeutic healing. Many medical scientists and medical schools, nursing schools are emphasizing therapeutic healing, the laying on of hands in direct correlation with physical treatment. So undoubtedly there’s a dimension [KPIX transcript reads: “this is a mission”] there that the responsible church must take over. And if we don’t, what are we going to leave it to? The type that says, “Trust God, and don’t go to the doctor.” So many of the people involved in healing want to knock medical science. And many of them die. I think they do far more harm than good, because they will keep people from going to medical science. When we find someone who thinks they have a healing, we say, get to the doctor and verify it.

Williams: Good! We have to take a break. We’ll come right back with the Reverend Jim Jones.

Music. Mike moves. Tape edit. Music.

Williams: Jim Jones. Jim, where do you get your– how do you maintain all these great programs that you’re part of, that you give leadership to? How do you maintain them?

Jones: People give generously when they see how their money is being used. We have a community center with indoor swimming pool. I think we have a novelty in geriatrics where senior citizens themselves manage and direct. The only input is the manual labor. We don’t dictate to them about their diet, the décor, etc. When they see results, people give generously, and we don’t have a mandate about tithing. Some do. And of course, we have a large membership, and that explains the support, and they will put on projects of various sorts. We get no outside help from the community to speak of. Our people are very, very generous.

Williams: Jim, where are we going to go in terms of society, of America, of the world, where are we going to go? Can you give it to me in 30 seconds?

Jones: I think we have to be very careful that we must do something about the alienation of the ethnic groups and racism. [NAACP Executive Director] Roy Wilkins, a conservative has just retired. We’ve got to overcome that, because a house divided against itself can’t stand. We must do something about racism quickly.

Williams: Here’s a man, I have to tell you, that being honest with you, I think he’s a genius, I think he’s a prophet, charismatic. He’s one of our great leaders. I’m glad to be associated with you. Brother, we gone stay together, because I know, if I stay with you, we gonna make it. We’ll bring about change. Walk that walk, and talk that talk. And be that be, and love that love, and struggle that struggle. Look for us. We’ll be there.