Governor Jerry Brown sang the preacher’s praises. Congressman John Burton, Phil’s brother, lobbied the governor to appoint Jones to the high-profile board of regents, which oversaw California’s sprawling public university system. San Francisco Supervisor – now U.S. Senator — Dianne Feinstein accepted an invitation to lunch with Jones and to tour Peoples Temple.
But no political figures were more gushing in their praise of Jones than Willie Brown and Harvey Milk, San Francisco’s rising tribune of gay freedom. Milk, a perennial candidate for office until he finally won a supervisor’s seat in 1977, aggressively sought Jones’s political blessing. “Our paths have crossed,” Milk wrote Jones during an earlier campaign for supervisor, in a letter filled with the kind of awed reverence that the cult leader demanded from his followers. “They will stay crossed. It is a fight that I will walk with you into . . . The first time I heard you, you made a statement: ‘Take one of us, and you must take all of us.’ Please add my name.”
Not content to hear dignitaries whisper flatteries into his ear, Jones staged a testimonial banquet in his own honor and demanded that politicians in his debt offer him public tribute. On the evening of September 25, 1976, the Peoples Temple headquarters on Geary Boulevard was converted into a formal dining hall with linen tablecloths and floral arrangements. At the head table sat Mayor Moscone, District Attorney Freitas, and Assemblyman Willie Brown, who acted as the evening’s exuberant master of ceremonies. As he introduced the man of the hour to the overflow audience, Brown reached new heights of shameless, ass-kissing puffery. “Let me present to you,” Brown roared, “a combination of Martin King, Angela Davis, Albert Einstein . . . Chairman Mao.” By the time Jones rose to tumultuous applause, he seemed likely to walk on water.