Jones Appointment to San Francisco Housing Authority

On October 18, 1976, almost a year after he was elected as Mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone appointed Jim Jones to the San Francisco Housing Authority, the agency with jurisdiction over public housing in the city. The appointment has been interpreted as an indication both of Jones’ power in the city and of his weakness in the political realm.

It was a victory for Jones in several respects. The position gave the Temple leader a chance to turn his political rhetoric delivered from the pulpit into action, and Jones spoke up for the poor and minorities whom the Authority was supposed to serve. The new platform also gave him new audiences and more access to press coverage. Eventually, after becoming chair of the commission, he was able to hire three Temple leaders to positions on Housing Authority staff.

There were aspects of the appointment which were disappointing, however. The Temple’s active support of Moscone the previous year may — or may not — have been pivotal in the mayor’s victory, but the interval of 11 months between the election and the appointment acted to undermine Jones’ presentation of himself as kingmaker. Just as telling is that, even though Temple spokesman Mike Prokes served on Moscone’s committee to submit and review names for appointments to commissions in the new administration, neither Jones nor any other Temple names were among the first 100 nominations. And when Jones finally was selected for a position in March 1976, it was to the city’s Human Rights Commission. As Tim Reiterman point out in his book Raven, the appointment might have been “an appropriate place for a liberal preacher. But to Jones, it was a lateral appointment – the same position he had held 15 years earlier in Indianapolis” (p. 268). Jones declined the initial offer, and seven months later, Moscone made the second appointment.

The Temple leader  served on the Housing Authority for less than a year. In August 1977, Jones embarked on his final trip to Guyana, and he did not leave Jonestown for the rest of his life.

Appointment of Jim Jones to San Francisco Housing Authority, RYMUR 89-4286-BB-17-x