Jim Jones was the founder of the cult 'Peoples Temple'. More than nine hundred people of this organization in Jonestown, Guyana, were believed to be a part of a mass suicide, which shocked the world. Until the events that took place on September 11, 2001, this was considered to be one of the worst non-natural disaster to take place in American civilian life.
Born to James Thurman Jones and Lynetta Putnam in Crete, Indiana near the Ohio Border, Jim spent his childhood in an impoverished environment. His father was a World War I veteran, and believed to be a part of the Ku Klux Klan. The Great Depression forced his family to shift to a nearby area in Lynn, Indiana. At a young age, he developed a keen interest in reading, and used to spend a lot of his time studying the works of Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi, Joseph Stalin, and Karl Marx. After the separation of his parents, he shifted with his mother to Richmond, Virginia, and completed his schooling from Richmond High. During his childhood, he found it very difficult to make friends, and spent most of his time contemplating on religion and spirituality.
His spiritual inclination made him a student pastor at the Sommerset Southside Methodist Church in 1952, but he took the decision of leaving the church when the higher authorities in the church opposed his ways of integrating blacks in his congregation. In one of the healing services held at the Seventh Day Baptist Church, he noticed that the prayer services attracted a lot of people who donated huge sums of money. Drawing inspiration from this, Jones started his own church, which went through a number of name changes, and finally was named Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel. He sold pet monkeys to people to raise financial resources for his church.
In 1960, he became the director of the Human Rights Commission, and worked towards the integration of churches, amusement parks, restaurants, and the telephone department. He set up operations to catch restaurant owners refusing to serve customers of African-American origin. At a time when he was admitted to the hospital, he refused to move from the black ward, and spent his time cleaning the bed pans and arranging the beds of black patients, which led to him being criticized severely by white professionals.
In early 1970, he began describing Christianity as a 'fly away religion', and rejected the Holy Bible, making claims that it preached about a Sky God that didn't exist. In his attempt to disillusion people, he circulated a booklet written by him called The Letter Killeth, which spoke against the Bible, and started preaching that he was a reincarnation of Jesus of Nazareth. In 1974, he started establishing Peoples Temple Agricultural Project in northwestern Guyana. In 1975, the Peoples Temple headquarters in San Francisco was instrumental in his political career. He established links with several political figures, which led to his prominence as a cult figure in the Peoples Temple.
Leo Ryan Episode
In 1978, Leo Ryan, a US Congressman, went with a delegation to Jonestown to investigate matters on human rights abuses, but left hurriedly after one of the Peoples Temple members Don Sly tried to attack Ryan. He took along with him fifteen members of the Peoples Temple, who expressed that they didn't want to be a part of the cult organization. Just as Ryan and his delegation were about to board two planes on an airstrip, Jim Jones' armed guards, the Red Brigade, opened fire on the delegation, killing Ryan and four others.
Later, on the same day, 909 members of Jonestown, which included 276 children, died of what was believed to be cyanide poisoning. Although there were no videos of the mass suicide, the FBI recovered a recording of the audio which stated this gruesome act to be a 'revolutionary suicide'. He was found dead on a chair with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.
This incident, which took place on November 18, 1978, shocked the world. Jim Jones, the motivator and leader of the Peoples Temple, is remembered the world over for his inhuman ideologies and disillusioned state of being.