The Carter Name

Photo Courtesy of California
Historical Society, MSP 3800

It was 1980, two years after Mike Prokes, my brother Tim, and I escaped the deaths in Jonestown. I had a job repairing office equipment. I would travel from office to office repairing equipment. In that type of a job, I interacted with dozens of people every day. Typically there would be a bit of small talk during my visits, usually about the weather or current events.

Tim and I were living in Boise, Idaho at the time, and there had been a lot of coverage about Jonestown. Because of our local connection, we were mentioned in the press often. At the same time, the country as a whole was having a lot of issues, and much of the blame was being placed on the shoulders of President Jimmy Carter.

One day, as I was talking with a woman, somehow my last name came up. I mentioned how unpopular the name “Carter” was at that time because of the country’s dissatisfaction with the President. She agreed. “Yes, and those ‘Carter’ brothers too.” I tried not to react, but when she looked at me and realized that I was one of the “Carter Brothers,” she was immediately embarrassed and maybe even afraid. I did my best to put her at ease. My work was done and I left soon thereafter.

The memory of that encounter has always stayed with me because of how shocked I was, that even what I thought was a safe conversation could turn into a difficult and uncomfortable interaction about my relationship with the Peoples Temple.

(Mike Carter is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. His complete collection of stories for this site may be found here.)