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Jones: My children have been threatened. An animal was beaten senseless— senseless unto death. One cat was skinned uh— Another that was hung, that happened to belong to a neighbor of mine. I’m going back over some time. Just this very week, uh, a call came through the San Francisco Temple from this area evidently, saying they were going to get my— my children at 12 o’clock, knowing that my children wereat home. We made the reports— We made the reports to the San Francisco law enforcement people. Our church has been threatened to be dynamited, uh, you would, uh— We are in a violent era. It disturbs me. I know, it’s probably no more in America, it’s certainly in Ireland, but if we don’t do something about this, this anarchistic tendency, I think it’ll break— break the spirit of this great republic.
Interviewer: Well, you mentioned uh, the uh, violence to animals. Were these um, uh, demonstrations that were put on uh, out uh, near your church, or uh, at your church?
Jones: They— You see, not having— Formerly, not having our church properly guarded, which we now have it guarded night and day, 24 hours a day. They got into the animal shelter and did this brutality to animals. Senseless brutality. I’m— I’m overwhelmed, I— I’m speechless that people would take their vengeance out against me, uh, by hurting little animals, or threatening my eight adopted children— or the— several of the adopted children I still have in my home. Or others. The— the— the threats are incredible. They don’t seem to mind who they threaten. They called the uh, rest home where— it’s a self-managing. We believe in a kind of an innovating program. One of our seniors is a— one of the older people— run their own affairs, do their own cooking, and only call on us, our nursing personnel and other professional people, as resource people. And then, of course, we do the heavy domestic duties. We have a lady there by the name of Mrs. [Marceline] LeTourneau living at that time. You’ve probably heard of the LeTourneau family, a very uh, prominent Caucasian family. They called up and threatened this woman by name, an (deliberate tone) 86-year-old woman. Threatened her. Now this is— this is absurd. If they have an issue with me, I’m the— I’m a fearless individual. I’d be glad to meet anyone and talk differences with— whatever their opinion, however hostile, if they would sit down as the old prophet said, Isaiah, and let us reason together. But this is uh, ridiculous and it’s horrendous that they can threaten innocent people all around me. And all I’m guilty of is presenting my views as I see them. And I think we’re guaranteed that, as last I remembered by freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly, and our right to our religious convictions.
Interviewer: Right. And this is— this is what I’m trying to accomplish here. I’m hoping that uh, through our conversation, we could shed a little bit of light on the situation and uh, perhaps to have some people to, to understand uh— Maybe we could some of that if— if you could give us um, a little bit of your background perhaps, how you happened to come to Redwood Valley, um, where you came from, uh, I think uh, people— well, I’ll speak for myself. I know little more than rumors.
Jones: I see. Well, let’s, for instance, we were supposed to have run— been run out of Indiana. We came to this area because, as you have noticed in recent articles, the Los Angeles Times, for instance, carried quite a coverage of the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and that they have open cross-burning meetings in our city. Having adopted minority children, children that were fathered by servicemen abroad as well as Caucasian children, a multi-racial family was under constant threat. But contrary to being run out of the city of Indianapolis, the statement of the editorial of the Indianapolis Times, Scripps-Howard paper, on the week of my departure, was “Reverend James Jones will be sorely missed as executive secretary of the Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights. He was hired after a long search. He was superb. He went about his job diplomatic— uh, diplomatically and fairly and produced the greatest results possible.” We received an editorial also in the uh, other paper, which is a much more conservative paper, the Star, uh, which did pick up Mr. [Lester] Kinsolving’s— part of his articles, not, of course, knowing his sources again. His sources were totally unreliable, and uh, he went to the uh, degree of sending uh, I mean, sending on his information there, but we have the best relationships with the leadership— ecumenical leadership, the community leadership of Indiana. We came here with the hope that California — having Indians here, all racial groups, a pretty cosmopolitan mixture — that we could uh, have some peace. And I’d lived in the inner city, being a governmental employee, as well as a pastor. We had a ghetto church that served 2000 free meals to the poorest of people for thirteen long years. And you might say we were tired from the battle, and my children— I felt like I somewhat had placed them on the altar of community service. So some of us, the principal leaders, decided we would like to relocate, and establish our church here, not proselytize, no one in this community can ever say we’ve rapped on a door or gone house-to-house trying to win anyone, uh— People who’ve come to our church have come from the desperate world of drugs, and they’ve been rehabilitated, a hundred and forty. Our people don’t use drugs even, or alcohol or tobacco. We’ve been told repeatedly from the law enforcement up and down this state, that once a person unites with our church, they’ve never had any church— of any pri— any trouble with the law thereafter. We’re a law-abiding people.
If this world was made up of as good a people as we are, there’d be peace. There would be no alienation. We’re inclusive, we have Jewish, we have Christians of all varieties, we do have blacks. Another fear is, of course, I hear constantly, one of the local pastors who has been very supportive said, “Jim,” he said, “it all boils down to one thing. The fear of the unknown, that every black person they see they think is a member of your church, and indeed, I see a lot of black people in the community that I do not know.” Actually, the Redwood Valley church is 90% Caucasian. We have very few black people who have settled this area. Our black people in San Francisco who have jobs that— that far surpass anything they could get here, and there is no intention of moving blacks in, but the reason they don’t want to move in, certainly they have the right to live here if they choose, but as this pastor said, a great deal of this is a fear, he said, it all boils down to that race question, that there— there’s just a fear that we’re going to be blanketed with hundreds of black people, and I think we have four black business people here, and I think about 25 black residents. Now that’s not hardly a threat to the community— But it’s the unknown again. I understood one person who’s an executive in— in the lumber industry. He said, they used to tell our lumbering industry, they were going to bring in (Deliberate tone) 5000 blacks, and that rumor has passed through down the years, and I— I really believe in being objective, and I don’t think there’s any subjective thing in this, that much of this is this fe— fear, because we are inclusive, that we’re going to somehow bring in hundreds and hundreds of black people, which we would not do to the black people (short laugh) in the first place, and we certainly wouldn’t to an— the economic picture. We have enough of a depressed economic problem, and our people are gainfully employed. It’s been hard to get jobs. We don’t have a— we don’t have a person that’s a shirker in our— in our midst. We’re good workers, hard workers, and so our employers tell us, we do a good job, but jobs are not that plentiful, so we have no intention of moving people in here.
Interviewer: From what you’re saying, however, it— it seems uh, quite clear, that at uh, at the root of your uh, controversy, uh, your difficulty seems to be the racial issue.
Jones: I’m afraid so. I’d hoped America had uh, grown up in these uh, years of uh, violence that we’ve seen where a number of leaders have been— civil rights leaders have been killed, and there’s been question that even maybe President [John] Kennedy was killed because of that, that he was a man of peace. I— I would hope that this had gotten through. And indeed, to pastor in churches here, it has. We’ve had— I wouldn’t name names, but I don’t want any more trouble. I’ve mentioned to you some of the individuals who’ve been supportive. But uh, leadership in this community is not lacking, as far as trying to bring understanding, but somehow, it doesn’t get to the grass roots, um— and then, I think it’s a vocal minority, because we have many supportive friends who make their feelings known, and uh— I don’t mean supportive in any material way, we get absolutely no outside help for our program, and we— from our funds, we’ve helped cancer societies, every kind of— of group that ministers to physically handicaps uh— uh, handicapped individuals, as the [San Francisco] Chronicle just wrote a very good article saying that we were widely known and highly respected for our social services, and we reach out to community projects of other denominations either— even, we’re a very generous and— and charitable people. Not to mention that we educated a hundred and nine of our own people, two of them now under total scholarship by our church in medical science, and then to think of the vast number we take care of who are senior citizens and children who we have guardianship over, who have not a penny of support, who are sent from troubled areas. But I think race — the unknown factor too — and that they magnify, that every black they see belongs to our church, which is not true, and then the one person called me from the filling station, he said a black person was very uncouth there. And I said, that black person doesn’t fit any kind of description. Another one called me, very hatefully a few weeks ago, and said a black person was beating a horse. I said, none of our black people own a— own a horse, and no black person that you described in my parish lives in the vicinity. So whoever this black person may or may have not been, it was not a member of Peoples Temple Christian Church. And so, I think we fall prey to that, that every time a black person does something, and black people are just humans, like Methodists, Catholics, Irish, they’re going to be bad and good, so when they see someone do something that is obnoxious or anti-social, they immediately conclude that they’re a member of Peoples Temple, and not once yet have we had a report of an anti-social act of a black person that was a member of our temple.
Interviewer: Will you give some indication of uh, the size of the membership uh, of your church?
Jones: I uh— to be accurate, I couldn’t— it’s uh, it’s a growing church, particularly in the metropolitan area. We have a vast membership in Los Angeles, about 2000 here, I suppose, um, 3000 in San Francisco, 4000 in Los Angeles. We’re an active church. We take care of our own people in the tradition of the scripture that says, take care first of the household of faith. And we believe that the church, if it would do this more, there would be less danger of the increasing tentacles of big government and bureaucracy. This frightens us. Now some people think of us as a uh, I think again, a conspiratorial communistic group. We’ve had people call up, “Commie lover, we’re gonna kill you,” this that and the other. If there were any more anti-bureaucratic or big government or imperialistic, communistic, fascistic group than ours, I don’t know how it could be. Now indeed, we’re utopianist, in the terms of the acts of the Apostles, where, when they received their baptism of the Holy Spirit of their ineffable union with Christ, they uh, shared and shared in every way, but again, we don’t (unintelligible word) people not transferring properties to us, uh, they’re not willing us anything, we take offerings in routine ways, we have projects, like every other church, and— Instead of taking from our people, we give far more than we take. But being that we are united and very supportive of each other, that— that attracts certainly in this day of alienation.
Interviewer: I think, Reverend Jones, that’s one of the um, criticisms, um, accurately or not, uh, that many people seem to discuss, and that is that uh, the belief that— that you’re getting rich, or that, if not you personally, then your church is somehow, uh, from your— your methods.
Jones: Well, if we’re getting that rich, uh— You see, a church that is underwriting— We had one case where we had someone on dialysis who had no funds. We’ve paid a hospital bill locally of one member who wasn’t— he is— he isn’t a member. He was not very firm in the church, but his wife was a good member, and he was generous enough to let her come to church, and not give much money, really, but we paid an eight hundred dollar hospital bill. We’ve paid veterinary bill. We’ve paid back rent of people who were someway even indirectly related to this church, we— we (unintelligible word— could be “battle”) locally. We’re a tremendous boost the economy of this community. And generous? $5000 went for charities— ecumenical charities through Southern California last month, $5000 through Dr. [Karl] Irvin and the Christian churches of Northern California last month, uh, of a thousand dollars through Jewish welfare agencies. And then I said, we’ve had retarded children, we helped a local couple I didn’t even know — it was on the front page of the newspaper — that was fighting for custody of a little child that had become like their own, and they didn’t have legal fees. We didn’t even bother, we just asked in the local news media if they would channel it very quietly, or find out first if they would receive it, and we gave several hundred dollars to help them in their legal battles. You would be amazed what we do locally. Uh, if we were to pull out of this community, there would be an economic depression, and a lot of people would be in hardship. We’re not trying to accumulate wealth. We’re a service-minded people. Indeed, we have to have a backlog of resources in order to maintain a hundred and nine students. You don’t educate a hundred and nine students in college uh, on a shoestring, neither can you take care of senior citizens who don’t have any funds. We don’t impose people to remain that way. If they choose to go on welfare, that’s fine. But we have very few of our people in proportion. I would imagine we have less on welfare than any church of this size, by far.
Interviewer: Maybe it’d be good to talk about uh, the effect on the local economy. Uh— How many people did you say you had locally?
Jones: Well, in the uh, total me— Redwood region here, and that would include some from Lakeport, I would say around 2000 people.
Interviewer: Well. It’s considerable.
Jones: Good job supporting, and they buy locally. We run an ad in the paper, oh, a couple of Christmases to buy and support local, uh, businesses. And we do that. Uh, and we— we do it conscientiously. So I think if people woke up, if we were pulled out of this community, it’d be a terrible, terrible loss to a lot of businesses and— and hurt to the economy.
Interviewer: Are you having any thoughts in that direction?
Jones: Yes, I have anticipated it in the past, but I’m not a person to run under fire. The worst way to get me to— now of course, you see, our church’s centers are outside, they’re bigger in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I have contemplated it. Our people do not wish to— I would not dream of trying to move 2000 people, no. But my headquarters may become more increasingly pointed towards a metropolitan area. But I would never move under fire, because that— that represents a trend. Other good people then would suffer accordingly. If people— If bigots or even poorly informed people who are frenzied from their own fear and paranoia, if they can get their— if they can achieve running people out that way, no good person is safe. So I don’t work that way. I’d rather die than run under fire.
Interviewer: All right, Reverend Jones, our time has run out. Perhaps uh, we can explore uh, your Peoples Temple Church a little further uh, next week, when we continue our discussions. My guest this morning on Perspective has been Reverend Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple church in Redwood Valley. This is Rob Basini [phonetic].
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Announcer: You’ve been listening to Perspective 73, a weekly look at the issues and events that shape life in our Redwood Empire. This program was produced by the KLIL News Department and was prerecorded.
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Edward Uyour III [phonetic], member of a prominent East Bay medical family, was found shot to death yesterday in his car which was parked on an Oakland Street. There was no motive, and no suspect. He was the son of Dr. Edward Uyour, who passed away in 1971, and the grandson of still another Edward Uyour, who was Oakland City Health Officer and who died in 1965.
Judge Matt Byrne has told Justice Department lawyers he wants new checks made to determine if any electronic surveillance had been conducted in the Pentagon Papers case.
End of tape
Tape originally posted February 2003