Survivor Profile: Jack Arnold Beam

Jack Arnold Beam encountered Peoples Temple as a child when his parents ,Jack and Rheviana Beam, began to follow Jim Jones in Indianapolis in 1954 (Reiterman, Raven, 49). Jack Arnold was one of the young white radicals during the late 1960s and 1970s in the Redwood Valley Temple and defected from the Temple in 1976 (Reiterman, Raven, 286; Edith Roller July 10, 1976). After graduating from High School in 1961, he left the Temple to play in bands throughout California, including Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.  He returned to the Temple in 1969 and worked primarily with the Temple’s choirs.

Before his final defection, Jack Arnold Beam was an integral part of the young white radical constituency within the Temple: he was permitted to carry a firearm by the Sheriff of Mendocino County (RYMUR 89-4286-371) and, for a while at least, was a member of the Planning Commission when Jones try to convince the group that he had the material to make his own atomic bomb in late 1975 (RYMUR 89-4286-720, 722, 1063).

Jack Arnold Beam playing guitar (center) at a Peoples Temple event in the early 1970s in Redwood Valley, CA

Jack Arnold was best known within Peoples Temple as a gifted musician and organizer of Peoples Temple Choir. In 1973, he helped the recording and marketing of their album “He’s Able,” which went on to sell over 100,000 copies (Reed 2016; Beck 2014). Jack Arnold toured in the 1960s and used his connections to help produce the album at the Producers Workshop Studio in Hollywood. There is no record of Jack Arnold’s sentiments when he defected with his wife, he left his parents in the Temple and did not seem to have much communication with them or others in Peoples Temple after his defection.

Jack Arnold Beam, “Sing the Song of Life…Follow Your Dream,” The Jonestown Report 11 (2009). Accessed at

Donald Beck, “Confessions of a Junior Choir Director,” The Jonestown Report 11 (2009). Accessed at

S. Alexander Reed, “Burning Down Freedom’s Road: The Strange Life of ‘Brown Baby’“ in Katherine L. Turner (ed.), This is the Sound of Irony: Music, Politics and Popular Culture (Routledge, 2016).

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