While the Peoples Temple started out helping the poor, sick and jobless, the religious organization morphed into a group associated with allegations of abuse and a mass suicide that took place in 1978. Jim Jones was behind establishing and leading the infamous organization. In this article, you will learn more about this cult leader.
1. Jim Jones was born in Crete, Indiana as James Warren Jones on May 13, 1931. He lived in a rural unincorporated community in Randolph County, which was located close to the Ohio border. When the Great Depression arrived, the Jones family moved to Lynn, Indiana in 1934.
2. Jones’ parents were Lynetta Putnam and James Thurman Jones, who had served in World War I. According to Jones and a childhood friend, Jones’ father was associated with the Ku Klux Klan.
3. Childhood acquaintances of Jim Jones say that he was an odd child that was obsessed with religion and death. It is said that as a child, he would hold funerals for small animals.
4. Jones was of Irish and Welsh ancestry.
5. When Jones’ parents separated, he moved to Richmond, Indiana with his mother. He would later graduated from Richmond High School with honors early for his age in 1948.
6. In 1949, Jones married a nurse named Marceline Baldwin. The newly married couple relocated to Bloomington, Indiana. Jones entered Indiana University at Bloomington as a student. It was here that he listened to an Eleanor Roosevelt speech about the plight of African Americans that greatly touched him.
7. In 1951, Jones made his way to Indianapolis, where he attended Butler University at night. It was this same year that Jones joined the Communist Party USA. He started to attend meetings and rallies in the state. During the McCarthy Hearings, he experienced harassment that led to an interest in using religion as a way to express his political beliefs.
8. Jones became a student pastor in Sommerset Southside Methodist Church in 1952, but claimed to have left when leaders did not permit him to integrate blacks into his congregation.
9. Witnessing a faith-healing service at the Seventh Day Baptist Church would greatly influence Jones’ views on religion, money, and power. He noticed that the healings attracted people to the church. They were willing to spend money for such services. He believed that these types of healings could help him reach his social goals.
10. After numerous name changes, Jones established the Peoples Temple Christian Church Full Gospel, and sold pet monkeys door-to-door to raise funds for his religious endeavors. Jones started the Temple during the 1950s in Indiana , moving to California in the mid-1970s. The headquarters for the organization was established in San Francisco.
11. Jones earned a degree in secondary education from Butler University in 1961.
12. Democrat Charles Boswell, who was the mayor of Indianapolis at the time, appointed Jones director of the Human Rights Commission in 1961. Boswell warned Jones that it would be best if he kept a low profile. He urged him to explore the possibilities of spreading his views on local radio and TV programs. The mayor and other commissioners asked Jones to limit some of his public activities, to which Jones resisted. He gained support from the NAACP and Urban League during a meeting where he encouraged people to become more militant.