Leo Joseph Ryan Jr. was an American teacher and politician. He served as the U.S. Representative from California’s 11th congressional district from 1973 until his assassination during the Jonestown massacre in 1978. He became famous for his vocal criticism of the lack of Congressional oversight of the Central Intelligence Agency. He was shot and killed at an airstrip in Guyana on November 18, 1978, as he and his party were attempting to leave.
About Leo Ryan in brief
Leo Joseph Ryan Jr. was an American teacher and politician. He served as the U.S. Representative from California’s 11th congressional district from 1973 until his assassination during the Jonestown massacre in 1978. He was shot and killed at an airstrip in Guyana on November 18, 1978, as he and his party were attempting to leave. Ryan was inspired by Kennedy’s call to service in his inaugural address and decided to run for higher office. He became famous for his vocal criticism of the lack of Congressional oversight of the Central Intelligence Agency. He co-authored the Hughes–Ryan Amendment, passed in 1974, which would have required extensive CIA notification of Congress about covert operations. After the Watts riots of 1965, Ryan took a job as a substitute school teacher to investigate and document conditions in the area. In 1970, using a pseudonym, Ryan had himself arrested, detained, and strip-searched to investigate conditions in California’s prisons. He stayed for ten days as an inmate at Folsom State Prison while presiding as chairman on the Assembly committee that oversaw prison reform. Ryan pushed through significant educational policies and authored what came to be known as the Ryan Act, which established an independent regulatory commission to monitor educational credentialing in California. In 1978, Ryan’s interest was aroused by the custody battle between RelCon leader Jim Jones and the father of former Temple member Bob Houston, whose mutilated body was found near train tracks on October 5, 1976, three days after a taped conversation with Houston’s ex-wife in which they discussed leaving the RelCon custody battle.
Ryan once told Dick Cheney that leaking state secrets was an appropriate way for a member of Congress to block an operation. He supported Patty Hearst’s application for a presidential commutation to the Haystawa, S.C., case. Ryan served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1964 and 1968 and held his Assembly seat until 1972, when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. In 1962 Ryan was elected mayor of South San Francisco and served less than a year before being elected to California State Assembly, winning the 27th district race by 20,000 votes. During his time in Congress, Ryan went to Newfoundland with James Jeffords to investigate the inhumane killing of seals, and became a vocal critic of the CIA. He also traveled to Guyana to investigate claims that people were being held against their will at the Peoples TempleJonestown settlement. He died in a mass suicide-murder by drinking cyanide-laced Flavor Aid in 1978, the second sitting member of the House of Representative to be assassinated in office, after James M. Hinds in 1868. Ryan died of a heart attack at the age of 48. He is survived by his wife, three children, and a stepson, Michael Ryan, and two step-grandchildren. His funeral was held in San Francisco on November 17, 2013. He received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1983. He had served as mayor of San Francisco from 1956 to 1962.