The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Jonestown memorial planned

It was one of the most horrific stories of the 20th century — a century that didn’t lack for horrors — and now plans are underway to erect a permanent memorial to the victims of the mass suicide at Jonestown:

A group of Peoples Temple survivors announced plans Thursday for a granite monument inscribed with the names of more than 900 people who died in the Jonestown tragedy 32 years ago to the day.

jonestown.jpgSome ex-members have grown impatient with efforts by the Rev. Jynona Norwood over the decades to erect a 36-foot-long stone wall, like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, at the Oakland cemetery where more than more than 400 unidentified and unclaimed victims are buried.


Those planning the new memorial include Jim Jones Jr., an adopted son of the temple leader. Jones told The Associated Press it’s time to move forward with an alternative monument — four large stone slabs that would be sunk flat on the grassy mass grave site overlooking San Francisco Bay.

“It’s been 32 years,” said Jones, who lost his parents, his pregnant wife and several other relatives in the mass murders and suicides. “I have loved ones and their name is not listed anywhere.”

Norwood, whose family lost 27 relatives in the tragedy, said she would press ahead with her own memorial, even though cemetery management says it is impractical for the site. Asked about the competing plan, she said angrily, “They want the people forgotten, so put their names on the ground.”


The new memorial plans came as about 40 people attended services featuring civil rights activist and comedian Dick Gregory.

Norwood has conducted annual services that eventually attracted ex-members as it became more widely accepted that they were idealistic people betrayed by temple pastor Jim Jones, who built an integrated church with a social message. But some were put off by the religious tenor of the services or felt that Norwood excessively demonized Jones while paying tribute to the dead members. Dozens gravitated to private anniversary gatherings here in recent years.

Another sore point emerged on the 30th anniversary service when Norwood brought the first panels of the wall on a sturdy trailer. She made clear the Rev. Jones’ name would not be inscribed on the panels, saying it would be an insult to the victims.


“It’s like putting Hitler’s name on a memorial for the Jewish community,” she said Thursday.

Read more.

And this news report from a few years ago retells the heartbreaking story of the event that put the phrase “drink the Kool Aid” into the lexicon.

Comments read comments(5)
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Gerard Nadal

posted November 19, 2010 at 7:21 am

Jones’ son’s defense of his father is understandable, but entirely misguided in its subjective loyalty. I remember well the horror of that revelation when I was eighteen. Jones was beyond mad, he was evil.
As I recall, Jones’ body was identified, so I doubt that he is interred with the 400 at the cemetery. His name should not be inscribed on the memorial of those whom he betrayed, imprisoned, and ultimately murdered.
When the conspirators in President Lincoln’s murder were hanged, a New York newspaper wrote, “We wish to hear their names no more.” The same for Jones.

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Gen X Revert

posted November 19, 2010 at 7:36 am

Just after the section quoted on this blog is this quote from that evil man’s son:
“We are concerned that our relatives be remembered,” he said. “We are not thinking about who caused it and what happened after 32 years.”
This is what is so frustrating when dealing with evil – people just want to forget and move on instead of doing the hard work of digging in and learning what happened. If you learn about Jonestown, you will learn a lot about people and their ability to be controlled, especially if they are “idealistic”. I find the same thing with the islamic terrorism around today – people do not want to dig in to why it exists, how long it has existed, and what the causes of it might be. In order to fight evil you need to be willing to do that work.

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posted November 19, 2010 at 9:59 am

This is what is so frustrating when dealing with evil – people just want to forget and move on instead of doing the hard work of digging in and learning what happened.
You do Tribunal work, don’t you? :)~

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posted November 20, 2010 at 11:43 am

I’m not sure there should be a memorial. Except for a few people who woke up and tried to get out everyone at Jonestown was willing to either kill themselves, their own children and anyone who refused to drink the Kool-Aid.

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Bernardo Arano

posted November 7, 2014 at 11:58 pm

How would someone go about reading this inside an RSS reader together with other blogs? My brother found your site on Ask. com. I am impressed with this weblog.

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