Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Identified Individuals Speaking
FBI preliminary tape identification note: One Compact Cassette C-30/ “Harold Dowler, people’s commitment” 3-3×5 cards
Date cues on tape: August 1974 to late 1975 (Gerald Ford became President in August 1974; J.R. Purifoy left the church with his family on New Year’s Day 1976)
Part 1 (all named Temple members speak):
Leslie [Lesey?] Alexander [phonetic]
Brich [phonetic] Baker
Mary F. Canada
Lily Delly [phonetic]
Miguel De Pina
Judis Drain [phonetic]
Ruby Eas [phonetic]
Emil Lathan [phonetic]
Megaline [phonetic; could be Magdaline] Laws
Georgia Necotin [phonetic]
Netha Mae Pryor [phonetic]
Ada Richards [phonetic]
Bertha Bernita Richmond
Elick [phonetic] Richmond, Jr.
David E. V. Smith
Beatrice Snubley [phonetic]
David Eugene Swinney
Valerie Verser [phonetic]
Marvin Warsher [phonetic]
Vannie Wise [phonetic]
Marva Wyman [phonetic]
J.R. Purifoy (speaks)
Peoples Temple members, full name unknown:
Henry (last name unintelligible; sounds like “Todd”)
Public figures/National and international names:
then-President Gerald R. Ford
former President Richard Nixon
Harold Dowler (speaks)
Art Gunn, Oakland political establishment (?)
Ralph Rath, Oakland Tribune religion editor
Temple adversaries; members of Concerned Relatives:
- Lester Kinsolving
Bill Reed (church lay leader, not PT)
Dan Thornton (church lay leader, not PT)
Margaret Thornton (Dan’s wife)
Bible verses cited:None
Side one of this tape consists of a relatively short recording of an unknown interviewer asking 64 members of Peoples Temple to identify themselves and to make an incriminating statement on tape. Most members respond that they are “a violent revolutionary,” although some go further and specify acts of revolution they would commit, such as killing the president. Others, on the other hand, have difficulty making the incriminating statement, and are coached and prompted by a whispered voice that was also captured on tape. Given the continuity of the background noise — in a large room in which Jim Jones is addressing a gathering through a P.A. system — it is apparent the interviewer spoke with the people in rapid succession, as if the people were lined up to speak.
The second part on side two of the tape is a telephone conversation between J.R. Purifoy, a leader in the Temple before his defection in early 1976, and Harold Dowler, the Senior Minister of First Christian Church of Oakland – a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination – whom Jones once approached with the idea of a merger. A description of that proposal appears here. The context of the conversation seems to place it near the time of the decision on the proposed merger, which failed by one vote.
Purifoy and Rev. Dowler also discuss media coverage of the Temple, and Dowler suggests that Peoples Temple cultivate a new religion reporter at the Oakland Tribune, a former Catholic priest named Ralph Rath who thinks very highly of the church. While they’re on the subject, the conversation turns to Lester Kinsolving, a longtime Temple antagonist. They laugh at the “professional muckraker” and his “yellow journalism.”
“[Kinsolving] makes his living by throwing mud on people and trying to destroy them, and he said one of [the] people that he’s after is Jim Jones and Peoples Temple,” Dowler says. “Ralph’s position was that if Kinsolving disliked them that much, … it’s bound to be a pretty good organization.”
Date of transcription: 3/8/79
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 8, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B62-31. This tape was found to contain the following:
A group of approximately 45 people stating their names and making statements that they are violent revolutionaries and would kill the President or any Government official that would stand in the way of the church.
One man, who identified himself as JOHN HARRIS, made a statement that he had killed three children.
Differences with FBI Summary:
The summary is factual, in that it accurately reports what people said, but it is highly misleading. It is apparent from the voices themselves that people spoke for the tape at someone’s request, the audio version of a signed “confession” or a loyalty test. Most of the voices are flat and dispassionate. Others are bright and cheery, and they laugh at their mistakes. A few who threaten the president have a hard time remembering who the president is. Others have difficulty with the word “revolutionary” and either give a sound-alike nonsense word or repeat a whispered prompt. The result is more pathetic than threatening. And while the unknown John Harris may in fact have killed three children, as he says on tape and as the FBI reported, the tenor of the tape makes it much more likely that he was improvising from the script.
The FBI apparently didn’t listen to the second side of the tape, since the conversation on it is not mentioned.
Tape originally posted February 2003