Peoples Temple Oral History Project Secures Several Interviews

by Laura Johnston Kohl

Several years ago, I began working on a project to collect Oral History recordings of Peoples Temple survivors in order to preserve this primary source information in an Archive of Peoples Temple history. I recorded the sessions, and used a backup recording device, so that we would be sure to preserve the discussion. At the beginning, we worked under a grant from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga that covered some of the initial expenses. I have continued with the recordings when possible.

At this point, we have Oral History recordings from Garry Lambrev, Don Beck, Versi Connesero, Deb Evans Harper, Hue Fortson, Lena Flowers, Vera Washington, Jordan Vilchez, and Doxie Swaney Phares, and I have three survivors who are ready for their interviews. In addition, I am delighted to report that we have started transcribing the audio recordings, and we thank Kathy Tropp Barbour for her assistance in this effort.

Unless restricted by the person giving the interview, the transcripts will be publicly available in audio and written form at the San Diego State University Peoples Temple Archives. The transcriptions will also be available on the Jonestown Institute website.

If you are a survivor who would like to participate an in-person or Skype Oral History interview, I would love to hear from you.

(Laura Johnston Kohl’s interview with Don Beck is here.

(Laura Johnston Kohl is a regular contributor to this site. Her other articles in this edition of the jonestown report are Plans for Return Trip to Guyana Solidify, The Families of the 1000, Why Such A Huge Variety Of Reflections On Jonestown And Peoples Temple?, Displays Photos of our Family, The Death of a Brother and The Larger Family of Teresa Cobb. Her collected works may be found here. Laura may be reached at

Originally posted on October 28th, 2015.

Last modified on November 2nd, 2015.
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