Jones Appointment to Indianapolis Human Rights Commission

On January 6, 1961, Indianapolis Mayor Charles Boswell appointed Jim Jones to be director of the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission, a position the mayor filled, according to Tim Reiterman in Raven, because he was compelled to.

Reiterman’s description of the appointment and of Jones’ tenure follows:

In 1960, conservative Democratic Mayor Charles Boswell had made available $7000 to fund the city Human Rights Commission directorship. Advertising the job by word of mouth, the selection committee heard from few applicants in the next [several] months – in fact, only one. In the job interview at city hall, the committee – a rabbi, a black judge and a priest – appraised Jim Jones without doing a background check. They were not aware of his healings, although they had seen his name on the religious page of the newspaper and knew him as an advocate of the poor and blacks. Jones came across as an articulate and humane “eager beaver” social worker, though he put off the priest a little by flaunting his fundamentalist Protestantism.

The committee recommended their only candidate to the mayor, who made the appointment because the post had to be filled. The mayor instructed Jones to keep a low profile, to proceed diplomatically and to avoid inflaming the racial climate – or antagonizing the business community.…

Through his position, Jones gained access to new forums for his views – on radio and television and in public appearances. He capitalized on the highly newsworthy topic of race relations – and increased his own visibility tenfold.…

After less than two months on the job, the mayor and some commissioners ordered Jones to slow down on his “journalistic efforts.” Jones, they thought, showed a counterproductive appetite for publicity in a delicate area. But with a crusader’s bent, he continued to shout his principles, often with rhetoric more militant than his actions (pp. 68-69).

Jones served as an active commissioner for over a year, until he moved with his family to Brazil in 1962.

Appointment of Jim Jones to Indianapolis Human Rights Commission, RYMUR 89-4286-BB-17-w