Survivor Profile: Edith Parks

Edith Amelia Parks first joined Peoples Temple in 1954, back when the congregation was still in Indiana. Parks stated in an interview at Pan American Hangar 17 that Jones had helped take care of her sick father, which motivated her to join the church. During this time Parks needed to undergo an operation for breast cancer. She was nervous, but Jones told her that everything would be alright. When the operation was successful it strengthened Parks’s faith in him. She moved to California with the church but did not live communally. She told the interviewer that she paid a quarter of her gross income to the church for years, which was required.

Parks moved to Jonestown in April of 1978, but said she did not find it to be the paradise that she had been lead to expect. She and Jerry Parks, her son, immediately began planning to leave. They had hidden clothing along their escape route prior to Congressman Ryan’s arrival. However, Jerry saw someone pick up one of the parcels and thought that Jones might know about their plan. He told Edith, who then got word to newsman Don Harris that she and her family wanted to leave with the congressman.

In separate interviews Edith and Jerry both describe what happened at the airstrip. Larry Layton had been frisked for weapons, after which Joe Wilson shook his hand. It is assumed that Wilson passed him a gun. Many of the Parks family had already boarded a plane when the shooting began. Edith’s daughter-in-law (Jerry’s wife) Patricia (Patty) was killed, described by both Edith and Jerry as having her “head blown off”. The survivors hid in some bushes near a shed, and Edith and Jerry went back to the aircraft to drag the wounded with them. Layton went over and tried to shoot Dale Parks, Edith’s grandson (Jerry and Patty’s son), but the gun misfired and Dale was able to get it away from him.

After everything Edith returned to Ukiah, California. She stated in the interview after arriving back in the United States that she had no intention of continuing to be a member of Peoples Temple and hoped that no one would come looking for her. She died on April 1, 1985 in Ukiah.


“Index of Living Individuals in RYMUR Documents.” Alternative Considerations of Jonestown Peoples Temple, jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=13763.

“Retrieving The Names.” Alternative Considerations of Jonestown Peoples Temple, jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=30254.

“Serial 1681-19.” Alternative Considerations of Jonestown Peoples Temple, jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=71482.

“Serial 1681-20.” Alternative Considerations of Jonestown Peoples Temple, jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=71484.


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