Who is Jim Jones?

Sheri Cyprus

Jim Jones was the leader of what could be considered a suicide cult that was called The People's Temple. Jones believed in mass suicide and felt it was a revolutionary reaction to racism. His father was a Klansman, which is a member of the racist Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Jim Jones preached passionately against racism and eventually built his own community called Jonestown in Guyana, South America. On 18 November 1978, a total of 909 adults and children died, including Jones himself, in a ritual suicide at Jonestown.

Jim Jones built his own community in the South American country of Guyana.
Jim Jones built his own community in the South American country of Guyana.

It was never made clear if Jim Jones had shot himself in the head or if someone else had done it. The event that had preceded the November 1978 Jonestown Massacre, as it is sometimes called, was an appearance at Jonestown by San Francisco Congressman Leo Ryan and his party. They had spent a day there looking for any human rights violations.

Jim Jones preached passionately against racism in South America.
Jim Jones preached passionately against racism in South America.

Following the investigation, Ryan and his party as well as three news reporters and an ex-People's Temple member were all killed as they tried to board a plane back to the United States. Eleven People's Temple members also trying to leave the country were hurt. Later on the same day, Reverend Jim Jones, instructed his followers to drink poisoned grape Kool Aid from a large container. Adults gave babies and children the poisoned Kool Aid first and then drank it themselves. It’s said that those who resisted were forced by others to drink the poison.

James Warren Jones was born 13 May 1931 to James Thurman and Lynetta Jones. Jim grew up in Indiana and married a nursing student named Marceline Baldwin in 1949. After being a student pastor in a Methodist church in 1952, Jim Jones decided to form his own People's Temple Church in 1956. He was ordained in 1964.

Jim Jones rallied strongly against the segregation of blacks and whites that was occurring heavily throughout the 1950s and 1960s in the United States and he preached passionately about the equality of the races. Jim and Marceline adopted a Native American child, three Korean children and one white child. They also conceived one child. The People's Temple was heavily involved in the civil rights movement and, ironically, Jim Jones was the president of the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission.

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Discussion Comments


It had nothing to do with Jones' father being in the Klan. Jones started out good but it was his drug use that made him go off the deep end and he eventually thought he was God. Many try to blame the Klan, and although the Klan is detestable, in this case, the Klan was not at fault.


Regardless of how or why it happened, it was a huge tragedy for our country. To think that things like that happen is very disturbing.


@googie98: While nothing has been found to substantiate any of those claims, there have definitely been rumors of the such. One rumor was that the Temple was part of an experiment ran by the CIA to perfect certain mind-controlling techniques. It was said that people had to be assassinated so that their secrecy would be maintained.

Like I said, there is no proof of any of that being true.


I have heard that there was some type of conspiracy theory going on and that the government was involved. Is that true?

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