Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Jim Jones Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Tracs 90 / “Oct 75 Jim & Dennis”
Date cues on tape: October 1975 (notation on tape box confirmed in context)
Mike Prokes (speaks)
Public figures/National and international names:
baby doctor Benjamin Spock
Dennis Denny, county social services director (speaks)
Carter (full name unknown) (unknown person)
Mr. McWiggen (phonetic, first name unknown) (unknown person)
Mrs. Rubin (first name unknown) (unknown person)
Margaret (last name unknown), worker in welfare office
Duncan James, member of sheriff department
John Dahl (phonetic), county worker, could be in sheriff department
Ford Duncan, county worker
Vic DeMur (phonetic), advertising executive with radio station
Bible verses cited: None
(Note: This was one of 53 tapes which the FBI initially withheld from disclosure.)
The tape consists of six segments, only three of which are substantive. The other three consist of a five-minute alphabet lesson and story-telling session between a child and a young woman – both unidentified – at the beginning of side one; a short conversation among Temple leader Mike Prokes and two unidentified people as they try to get a balky tape recorder to work; and several moments of unintelligible murmurs and sounds of telephone equipment.
The three other segments are of phone calls between the Temple and various people in the Redwood Valley/Ukiah area. Although none are dated, they seem to be from the same period, and seem consistent with the notation of 1975 on the tape box.
In the first conversation of substance, an unidentified woman resident of Redwood Valley has called the Temple to complain about a call she has received. She had phoned a call-in radio program to talk about a problem she was having with someone in the local school administration, although, as the woman points out, “The fact that this person was a member of the Peoples Temple had nothing to do with [the problem].” Twenty minutes after she called the station, someone called her at her home to criticize what she had said. The woman said the call itself was “inappropriate,” and later says she felt threatened and scared – and her voice wavers as she speaks – especially since she didn’t leave her last name and telephone number with the station.
The person fielding the complaint is sympathetic, but wonders if the threatening caller is a member of the Temple. “If he isn’t, he should be,” the woman replies. The young woman at the Temple notes that they get accused of many things they haven’t done, but says she’ll check into the incident. The two women talk another several minutes as the caller unwinds, and the conversation ends amicably.
In the next substantive section, a Temple representative tells an advertising executive at a local radio station that the Temple will not be able to participate in the annual Christmas program, since the Temple choir will be on the road, but they would like to make a financial contribution to the program. The advertising man talks about the Temple being a potential sponsor, and the representative is receptive. The two men also discuss a recent, undefined “ordeal” that the Temple went through, and the assistance that the station gave by cutting off abusive callers on the air.
The conversation is almost completely innocuous, except for one thing: the Temple member who calls the radio station identifies himself as “Mike Prokes,” the P.R. man for the Temple. However, it is not Mike Prokes who is speaking, but an unknown black man with a deep voice.
The majority of the tape – the balance of Side 1 and the brief continuation on Side 2 – is a telephone conversation between Jim Jones and Dennis Denny, the director of Social Services for Mendocino County. (Some of the same concerns – and people – are discussed in Q 710, although the notations on the tape boxes indicate that tape predates this one by three months.)
Jones is having problems with a care home operator who has several Temple members in her facility, but the two men don’t discuss the background of the situation, so the context is unclear. Jones has called the county official – whom he considers a friend – and complained that the woman bragged to members of the Temple that “we were in trouble with the welfare.” Even if the woman has some legitimate grievances against one member, Jones says, her remarks are reflecting upon the church at large, which Jones says is unfair. “If a Catholic came in there and in some way violated some code, the whole Catholic Church wouldn’t be brought in to question.”
Denny is sympathetic. He says that the county has had its own problems with the woman – “she plays the same game with us” – and her license may be in jeopardy. The official says that he has mentioned this to Temple attorney Tim Stoen.
Jones moves on to another concern, apparently involving a church member who may have been charged – or who may face charges – of child abuse, following physical discipline and/or corporal punishment of a child in a local school. (Again, without the background, which neither man provides, this is inferred rather than expressed; in addition, the role and responsibility of the county welfare director in the situation are not spelled out.) Denny says he was working to get the criminal charges eliminated, but that he hadn’t followed through on a conversation with the District Attorney as he had promised to do, and hadn’t made “much headway” on the matter. Later, he apologizes that “I’ve lost control of [the] situation, I guess, and I just don’t like being put in that posture.”
Jones pleads the case of the unnamed Temple member in numerous ways. He points out that the man has no criminal record. Moreover, there have been no arrests of church members, which, Jones points out, “says something for the kind of teaching and character and integrity of [our] organization.” At another point, Jones promises that anyone who does abuse a child – whether or not he is punished by society – will be called onto the floor of the church to answer the charges.
Jones’ defense of the church member becomes increasingly strident as the conversation continues. At one point, he observes that a doctor with a lot of experience in abuse examined the child and “minimized” what happened. Even later, he reminds Denny that someone in the sheriff’s office had said “that there was very little likelihood anything be done with it.” Finally, late in the phone call, he says that he has material about the sheriff’s department that shouldn’t be aired, then immediately adds, “I’m not going to allow him to go down without a fight.”
Jones hedges on what he wants Denny to do. At first he says that his defense of the young man in question “is probably bordering on asking consideration.” He continues that he has never done that before, then adds that certainly he – as leader of the church – has been asked for consideration. “When people want votes,” he points out, “they don’t hesitate to ask me for consideration.” And the church has produced the votes, and the votes have resulted in good government officials. He then crosses the self-described border: “it seems to me that it ought to be a two-way street.”
Whatever pressure Jones may try to exert, though, Denny speaks of his own professional responsibility in handling the case. “[Y]ou know in your own mind that whatever decision I made on that issue, was precisely to those facts and nothing else.” Even when Jones hints at untold recriminations, Denny cuts him off by repeating his vow to get on top of the situation as soon as he can get off the phone.
Neither man chides the other, even when there seem to be differences of opinion. Instead, as is the case in other conversations between the two, the men express a mutual respect, admiration and friendship.
Much of that relationship seems to be based upon shared goals, and the recognition of each other’s chosen path to achieve those goals. At one point, Denny tells Jones that “all I’m interested in … is to build a foundation that we can be most effective in a very humanitarian way.” The words could just have easily been directed from Jones to Denny.
Nevertheless, Jones recognizes some tensions. He acknowledges that his church is not only the most controversial in the area, it’s so much larger than anything else in Redwood Valley that they stick out “like a sore thumb.” Perhaps, he says, it would be better if Peoples Temple were to transfer to San Francisco, where the mixed racial congregation would be welcomed. What sounds like a simple observation early in the conversation acquires a harder edge later: after reminding Denny of what he has done for the community, Jones says, “if they do this to one of my people, I’m going to pull in my shell.”
Date of transcription: 3/30/79
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 22, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B62 #118. This tape was found to contain the following:
Side A initially dealt with a kindergarten or nursery school class learning their ABC’s. There was then a telephone conversation in which a female caller talked of a school problem between her child and a child associated with the People’s Temple.
Further, there was a telephone conversation from MIKE PROKES, Assistant Pastor of People’s Temple, to a Mr. DE MURK (phonetic) at Good Advertising KDKI (phonetic), regarding a Christmas program. MIKE PROKES said that People’s Temple did not have one, but would be willing to contribute financially.
Lastly, there was a telephone conversation between Reverend JONES and a Mr. DENNY (phonetic). Reverend JONES advised that he was infuriated with a Mrs. MARBLE (phonetic) who called saying that People’s Temple was in trouble with Welfare regarding some child. They discussed the problem at length with Mr. DENNY (phonetic) saying that he would look into the matter personally.
Side B consisted briefly of a continuation of the conversation between Reverend JONES and Mr. DENNY (phonetic). The rest of this side was blank.
Nothing was contained thereon which was considered to be of evidentiary nature or beneficial to the investigation of Congressman RYAN.
Differences with FBI Summary:
Aside from the misidentification of Mike Prokes in one segment – which is understandable, since the speaker on the tape falsely identifies himself as Prokes (see “Summary” above) – the summary is accurate and meets the FBI’s purposes.
Tape originally posted April 2002