CHS Processes Major Collection of Temple Publications Department

The California Historical Society recently completed its work on processing a major collection of photographs, slides, contact prints, and audiovisual recordings from the Peoples Temple Publications Department. A full description of the materials, donated by former Temple members Tim and Jean Clancey, appears here. The photos and audio from the Publications Department are here.

The Peoples Temple Publications Department was responsible for publicizing the Temple’s activities, publishing the Peoples Forum newspaper (which was distributed by members on the street), releasing newsletters and calls for donations, keeping up contact with members and visitors, and maintaining a large photographic library.

Tim Clancey took over the Publications Department its former head, Deanna Mertle defected from the church. A candlemaker who joined the Temple along with his wife MaryLou and his close friends Tim and Terry Carter, Clancey retrained as a printer within the Temple and operated a print shop in Redwood Valley for both commercial and Temple use. In the mid-1970s, he and his shop moved to the San Francisco Temple. The Publications Department eventually grew to include several full-time staff: Bryan Kravitz, Don Jackson, graphic artists Kathy Barbour and Patti Chastain, typesetter Gloria Rodriguez, and teenage photographer Mike Rozynko. Professor and former journalist Dick Tropp edited the Peoples Forum itself. Although Jim Jones would suggest stories and give broad directives, he did not closely manage the department, and it was largely left to its own devices.

The collection’s other donor, Jean Brown Clancey, was not a member of the Publications Department, but she was involved in Temple communications. A former high school teacher, she moved to the San Francisco Temple in the mid-1970s to accept an editing job with the Housing Authority which had been offered to her by the new Moscone mayoral administration. She also wrote for the Peoples Forum and acted as a contact for the mainstream press.

In its heyday, the Temple pursued a very ambitious program of political action: defending marginalized activists, getting out the vote for candidates, working with mainstream media, maintaining relationships with other churches within its denomination (the Disciples of Christ), recruitment trips across the country, letter-writing campaigns, radio appearances, marches, and alliance-building with celebrities and politicians. The Publications Department and its photographic library supported all of these activities, as well as the Temple’s bureaucratic needs, such as passport and membership photographs.

The Publications Department declined in scope and reach after several of its key staff were sent to Jonestown. Many of those who had distributed the Peoples Forum also left for Guyana, and by November 1978, department activity in San Francisco was very limited. Rodriguez, Rozynko, Tropp, and Jackson died in Jonestown, as did Tim Clancey’s wife MaryLou and Tim Carter’s sister Terry (Carter and Rodriguez had also since married).

Tim Clancey and Jean Brown were married in 1979, survived the dissolution of the Temple together, and donated the Publications Department materials to the California Historical Society in 2010.

Funding for processing this collection was provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

For information on access to items within the collection, contact CHS.