Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Jones speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Tracs 60/John Meher — 2 yellow 3×5 cards attached
Date cues on tape: Spring 1976 (prior to California presidential primary)
American Indian Movement leader Dennis Banks
United Farm Workers organizer Cesar Chavez
Cinque (Donald DeFreeze), member of Symbionese Liberation Army
Angela Davis, fired professor from UC-Berkeley
FBI Director Clarence Kelly (by reference)
George Meany, head of AFL-CIO
California governor and presidential candidate Jerry Brown
Former Georgia governor and presidential candidate Jimmy Carter
Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson
U.S. Senator Walter Mondale
Oregon governor Robert Straub (by reference)
San Francisco Supervisor John Barbagelata
Fred Firth, political candidate in San Francisco local election
San Francisco District Attorney Joseph Freitas
John Maher, co-founder of Delancey Street Foundation (speaks)
Milton Marks, California State Senator from San Francisco
Mendelsohn, first name unknown, political candidate in San Francisco local election
San Francisco Supervisor John Molinari
San Francisco Mayor George Moscone
Sylvester Harring, San Francisco political operative
Billy James Hargis, leader of Christian Anti-Communist Crusade
Dr. Lynn Hodges, head of San Francisco ecumenical council
Cecil Williams, pastor at Glide United Methodist Church, San Francisco
Rappaport, first name unknown, reporter
Mellankopf, first name unknown, reporter
Herb Caen, San Francisco Chronicle columnist
Charles Gould, San Francisco Examiner publisher
Gordon Pates, San Francisco Chronicle Managing Editor
San Francisco Sun-Reporter publisher and physician Carlton Goodlett
Former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite
CBS anchorman Dan Rather
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
Lester Kinsolving, former San Francisco Examiner columnist
Penny Kerns, aka Ellen Louise DuPont
Tim Stoen, assistant District Attorney
Temple members, full names unknown:
Bible verses cited: Matthew 25
(Note: This tape was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from public disclosure.)
This tape includes a number of phone calls placed by Jim Jones to different people in San Francisco early in 1976, although the first conversation takes up three-quarters of the tape.
In the first conversation, Jones discusses political strategy with John Maher, the head of the Delancey Street Foundation, a support group for ex-convicts and rehabilitating drug addicts. The conversation has already started when the tape begins — and whatever reasons Jones may have given for calling Maher are not included — but Maher has an understanding of San Francisco politics that Jones acknowledges (“You’re very much more aware of the grassroots political process”) and admires (“He’s a smart fucker,” Jones tells a secretary in the next phone call). In the course of the conversation, Jones describes Maher as his mentor, as a “man of character” for whom he has the highest respect, and even as a man who should be president (although Jones’ tone in the last compliment is somewhat offhanded).
The two men discuss the upcoming 1976 presidential primary in California and consider which of the two leading Democratic candidates — Georgia governor Jimmy Carter or California governor Jerry Brown — could do the most for their own supporters and members. Jones says that his devotion to all of Peoples Temple’s good works means he can’t keep up with the nuts and bolts of politics, so he defers to Maher. The foundation direction speaks candidly about organizing to accomplish political goals, such as getting in early on a campaign while outside interests and lobbyists can still have an impact, and spelling out exactly what you expect for your delivery of voters or delegates. The important issue for Jones is the threatened extradition of Dennis Banks to South Dakota, and the men discuss how Jones can bring that issue to the campaign.
But Jones is also looking for letters from the Delancey Street Foundation to the San Francisco District Attorney and the press in support of Peoples Temple itself. Even as Jones describes his programs as background for Maher’s benefit, he says he needs outside help to enable the Temple to avoid bad publicity and to stay out of the public eye. “We feel that the best news for Peoples Temple is no news,” Jones says. “And that’s the damn truth.”
Jones tells Maher about Jonestown in the context of helping criminals and addicts who can’t make it in the city. He describes the agricultural project in glowing terms, saying it has produced 60,000 pounds of yams for export and offers employment to 200 local Guyanese.
Jones also speaks about himself, describing himself alternatively as the leader of “an independent socialist community” and a “utopian … socialist system” much like that in Scandinavian countries. Later, in response to a slighting remark that Maher makes about do-gooder preachers, Jones says that he’s an agnostic and that his congregation is “ninety percent atheist.” He acknowledges his emphasis on the paranormal, in large part because of its demonstrative curative powers, but includes the caveat that “we don’t link that with any kind of causative factor of a loving God.” There are things about Christianity that he can hold onto — “we think Jesus Christ was a swinger, he taught some pretty damn good things at feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, maybe a little paternalistic … so we emphasize the teachings of Christ” — but adds, “I don’t believe in any loving God.”
Jones says he thought about going the route of establishing a foundation, such as Maher did, but says it’s important to maintain the position of the Temple within the Disciples of Christ. It’s a large, strong denomination with ties to the politically-powerful and with progressive stances. “Giving up the church meant giving up that kind of influence,” he says. Otherwise, he says, “I would have left the church.”
The conversation is not merely introspective and academic, though. Maher urges Jones to remain in the church, if for nothing else, for the political considerations: people accept things from a “collar,” as Maher describes ministers, that they won’t hear otherwise.
Still, Jones lingers on the disadvantages of being in the church. They can’t work on legislative issues the way he wants, out of fear of losing their tax-exempt status. He says the privileges of the church — including ministerial benefits and even their exemption from the Selective Service — is “the government’s part to bribe the church into silence, so that it won’t speak out against the government,” and the church shouldn’t put up with it. But they do, and so will he. He doesn’t even feel he could lead by example, to renounce the Temple’s exemption, because he is afraid others wouldn’t follow. “[A]s long as the goddamn bunch of institutions that are doing nothing get tax-exemption, I don’t see why Peoples Temple should risk losing ours.”
Much of Jones’ concern about bad publicity and potential government harassment comes about as a result of the vendetta launched by newspaper columnist and Temple bete noire Lester Kinsolving. Jones says that he has evidence of Kinsolving’s connection to the CIA. Maher replies that all of the progressive groups are infiltrated with “provocateurs.”
The second conversation on the tape is between Jones and an unidentified young woman who listened in on Jones’ conversation with Maher and who pledges to transcribe it quickly so they can pull out the salient points. Jones speaks well of Maher, and says he has a lot of good ideas, but does criticize the foundation director for living “too plush,” for having “elegant” furniture and for driving “that fucking Cadillac.”
The conversation between Jones and the secretary is quiet. Jones sounds tired, and the woman speaks gently in a tone that’s almost intimate. There is a sense of trust between the two, and they exchange ideas with sincerity and openness that Jones seemed to lack in his conversation with Maher.
They talk about people in Temple leadership who do “strategy work” on their own. The practice needs to stop, Jones says. They need to confer with others. They all need to, he adds, and he includes himself in that number. “I wouldn’t trust my judgment far as I could throw it. And I’m the leader, and I’ve made a lot of good decisions.” He concludes the thought by asking the secretary to come up with a policy statement on the issue.
The conversation continues with administrative matters which are mostly out of context. The third conversation on the tape — a short call between Jones and an unidentified man — is similarly out of context, although Jones is critical of a hatchet job which a newspaper has done on Cecil Williams, a black Methodist minister and a strong political figure in San Francisco.
Date of transcription: 3/7/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.
On March 2, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B47 #67. This tape was found to contain the following:
A telephone conversation between JIM JONES and JOHN (last name unknown) of Delancy Street. JOHN is explaining how Governor BROWN will be pressured into not extricating [extraditing] DENNIS BANKS. JOHN also explained the political tactics in the 5th Assembly District.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted September 2003