Histories of Peoples Temple, Biographies of Jim Jones

In addition to arranging for periodic media interviews of Jim Jones, Peoples Temple leaders launched several efforts to gather materials for an extensive official history of the organization and a biography of its founder.

One of these came in 1973, when Harriet Tropp Randolph solicited stories from “all P.C. members” for a feature article which she planned to submit to a magazine like The New Yorker. Her notes outline the various periods of Jones’ life – childhood, adolescence, early years of his ministry both in Indianapolis and Brazil, extending to his “today” of 1973 – and listed a range of interview sources, ranging from Jones’ mother and wife, to Temple members who accompanied Jones from Indianapolis, to close aides who joined in California. Much of the work, including Harriet’s memo, appear in section 117, folder BB-18 of Temple documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, primarily pages Z-49 through Z-125. It is not known whether this project was ever completed.

A second attempt to assemble a biography of Jim Jones and a history of the Temple movement occurred in 1978 in Jonestown, when Harriet’s brother Richard Tropp started recording tapes and collecting papers. The efforts never came to fruition: he was able to collect only individual fragments, random recollections, unorganized and stream-of-consciousness interviews before the arrival of Leo Ryan in mid-November 1978.

Finally – perhaps concurrently – several Temple leaders began work on what was known as the “Conspiracy Book,” which documented a history of perceived attacks against the church. An early draft of that work – also unfinished – appears here.

These coordinated campaigns were not the only efforts to create a written legacy of what the Temple was about and how Jones led the movement. Scattered throughout the history of the Temple – beginning as early as its days in Indianapolis – are documents by church leaders, members and Jones himself.

  1. Lynetta Jones, Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
    1. The Writings of Lynetta Jones
    2. The Lynetta Jones Interviews
  2. The Ukiah Collection
    1. A History by Rheaviana Beam (RYMUR 89-4286-HH-6-A-22)
      PDF
      Text
    2. A History by Maurice Kleineibst (RYMUR 89-4286-HH-6-A-39)
      PDF
      Text
    3. A History by Esther Mueller (RYMUR 89-4286-HH-6-A-38)
      PDF
      Text
    4. Untitled statement by Carol Stahl (RYMUR 89-4286-FF-1-96a – FF-1-96c)
      PDF
      Text
    5. Rick Cordell Re: JJ (RYMUR 89-4286-HH-6-A pp. 2-16)
      PDF
      Text
  3. The Nouvelle Observateur Interview with Jim Jones (1977)
  4. Marceline Jones, Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
    1. A joint statement with Lynetta Jones, 1975 (RYMUR 89-4286-HH-6-A-17 – HH-6-A-21)
      PDF
      Text
    2. Undated recollection (RYMUR 89-4286-FF-1-95a – FF-1-95f)
      PDF
      Text
    3. Interview with Marceline Jones (RYMUR 89-4286-BB-18-Z-62 – BB-18-Z-68)
      PDF
      Text
  5. Early Draft of Temple History and Conspiracies Against It
  6. Jim Jones’ Autobiographical Statements
Originally posted on May 21st, 2013.

Last modified on June 9th, 2022.
Skip to main content