Letters of support for Peoples Temple, Winter 1978

[Editor’s note: Just as Tim and Grace Stoen solicited letters of support from members of public interest groups who might have influence with members of Congress or the State Department, so Peoples Temple asked its supporters to write.]

Portrero Hill Neighborhood House
953 DeHaro Street
San Francisco, California 94107

February 15, 1978

Rep. George Miller
U.S. Congress
#1531 LHOB
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Miller:

I have known Rev. Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple for ten years. During this time I have never known him once to refuse to help anyone in need, regardless of race, color, or creed.

He has always believed in lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness, and his work here in San Francisco and the Bay Area, as well as his devotion to the people and mission in Guyana, are the mark of a man who has devoted his whole life to the service and welfare of humankind.

I am thus dismayed to learn that another round of attacks has been leveled against him – although I understand that Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King, among many others throughout history, have suffered condemnation and persecution during their lifetimes for wanting nothing more than a better life for the downtrodden.

If you have been used and misled by a detractor in any way who is trying to hinder the work of Rev. Jones and Peoples Temple in their Jonestown agricultural mission, which is making such strides in resource and human development and building a bridge of friendship between Guyana and the United States, I am very sad. Because if such a beautiful work for the people could just be left alone to develop in peace, the world would see a candle of hope become a flame of inspiration for others to follow. All of us have much to learn about living together in racial and economic equality as the Peoples Temple is doing.

I implore you to withdraw any commitment you have or may have made inadvertently on the half of one who is bent on throwing the work of peacemakers to the wind and who may well be receiving money to do it.

Sincerely yours,
/s/ Enola D. Maxwell
Enola D. Maxwell, Executive Director

*****

[Letterhead of Supervisor Harvey Milk, Board Supervisors, City Hall, San Francisco 94102]

January 19, 1978

President Jimmy Carter
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Carter:

I am the Supervisor for District Five in the City of San Francisco. The Peoples Temple Christian Church is not located in my District, so I have no political ties or obligation to this church. I am writing to call an urgent concern of theirs to your attention. I’m concerned on what I understand is the endorsement of some of our Congressmen for the efforts of Timothy Stoen against Rev. Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. There are some facts I feel you should be informed of:

Rev. Jones is widely known in the minority communities here and elsewhere as a man of the highest character, who has undertaken constructive remedies for social problems which have been amazing in their scope and effectiveness. He is also highly regarded amongst church, labor, and civic leaders arrived range of political persuasions. Our own Board of Supervisors has presented Rev. Jones with a Certificate of Honor, unanimously passed by all members, praising the church for its many projects “which have been so beneficial to all the citizens of the Bay Area.” On the same occasion, he was also presented with a unanimously passed resolution by a Republican State Senator, Milton Marks representing that legislative body.

Timothy and Grace Stoen, the parties that are attempting to damage Rev. Jones’ reputation, and viciously disrupt the life of his son, John, have both already been discredited in the news media here. The most widely-red columnist in the area, Herb Caen, printed Mr. Stoen’s sworn testimony that John is not his child but rather Rev. Jones. Grace Stoen is reportedly involved in what can be considered a blackmail attempt against another leader in the minority community, Dennis Banks, reported in the two major dailies with her name also given in Mr. Banks’sworn affidavit about the attempt.

It is outrageous that Timothy Stoen could even think of flaunting the situation in front of our Congressmen with apparently bold-faced [illegible word]. I have learned in addition, that he has pressured those Congressmen towards unwitting compliance with promoting State Department intervention in the custody case now pending in Guyana.

Not only is the life of a child at stake, who presently has loving protective parents in Rev. and Mrs. Jones, but our official relations with Guyana could stand to be jeopardized, to the potentially great embarrassment of our State Department.

Mr. President, the actions of Mr. Stoen need to be brought to a halt. It is offensive to most in the San Francisco community, and all those who know Rev. Jones to see this kind of an outrage taking place.

Respectfully,
/s/ Harvey Milk
Harvey Milk

cc: Rep. John Burton; Rep. Phillip Burton; Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally

*****

[Letterhead of Willie Brown, California State Assemblyman]

The Honorable Jimmy Carter
The President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania St.
Washington DC

Dear President Carter:

It is an honor for me to write on behalf of Rev. Jim Jones, a rare human being and leader of the first order. He has been unjustly maligned in recent months, but is presently undertaking a remarkable agricultural mission in Guyana, South America, the reality of which flies in the face of all its detractors. Rev. Jones, more than any other minister the Bay Area has seen, did wonders for this community in terms of tackling ingrained social problems, such as drug abuse, crime, and unemployment. I have no doubt that his inspirational leadership is motivating the Peoples Temple members in Guyana to even greater achievements, now that they are established in their own territory free from the tensions and hindrances of urban life.

As a leader within the minority community of San Francisco and of the State of California, I can speak to the tireless efforts Jim Jones extended virtually everyone in need of assistance when he was a resident of our city. The Third World community knows and respects him well. A man this noteworthy for his high principles, ceaseless work, and extraordinary ability to motivate others is truly the best representative of our country can hope to have the emerging Third World nation of Guyana. I have confidence that Jim Jones’ community can only reflect well upon both America and the Guyanese.

-2-

I had the pleasure of attending a testimonial dinner on behalf of Rev. Jones, at which he was presented well-deserved certificates of commendation from both the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and the State Senate, the latter of which was initiated by my Republican colleague, Senator Milton Marks. The dimension of Rev. Jim Jones humanitarian goals and accomplishments is such that he has been uniquely able to transcend surface political considerations to promote concrete, humane and better conditions of life for all our citizens.

I am advised that Rev. Jones decision to remain in Guyana for the time being. I understand that decision. I respect it and I am sure that Rev. Jones will return to this country when he deems it wisest to do so.

From the news stories about Rev. Jones’ absence from the country, it is clear that many persons opposed to Rev. Jones are attempting to exploit the absence for their political purposes. I am frankly appalled at such efforts. I hope that you will not be persuaded to assist in their efforts.

Jim Jones is truly an American asset!

Sincerely,
/s/ Willie L. Brown, Jr.
Willie L. Brown, Jr.

*****

[Letter from Angela Davis]

February 28, 1978

President Jimmy Carter
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I will like to commend to you highly the work of Reverend Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. I first became acquainted with Jim Jones when he and his church came out early on behalf of my defense when I was in prison on charges for which I was later vindicated. This was a great risk to himself and his church, because my cause was not a popular one in church circles at that time. When I found on later personal contact with him, and to this day, that he is an ardent spokesman for justice who will speak out whenever he sees individuals or groups unjustly harassed or persecuted, whatever their race, background, or political persuasion. He is a humanitarian in the broadest sense of the word, who renders assistance often at great personal sacrifice, never concerned about what people think of his actions, but only that he is following the right course. He is a great champion of the poor and oppressed of our country, who has been able to organize and mobilize people the struggle for the racially quality as social justice which is our only insurance of freedom in the days to come.

You cannot realize how fortunate you are to have Rev. Jones spearhead his agricultural project in the Third World. He communicates with great sensitivity two Third World peoples, and his commitment to alleviating human suffering can hardly be matched. I am certain his intentions are of the best, and he will be a potent influence for good in strengthening America’s relationship with that area of the hemisphere.

I understand efforts are underway to influence Congressman to exert pressure on the State Department to intervene in a court matter under local Guyanese jurisdiction. This would be a foolhardy move, both from the standpoint of the best interests of the United States, and would surely antagonize the Guyanese, who are very competent to handle the matter, and the many thousands of Peoples Temple members as supporters here in the United States who are prepared to stand by Rev. Jones.

I urge you to give this matter your utmost consideration.

Sincerely yours,
/s/ Angela Y. Davis
Angela Y. Davis

Originally posted on June 16th, 2020.

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