York conviction puts cult, compound in
The Macon Telegraph/July 14, 2004
By Gary Tanner
Eatonton -- People in Putnam County are waiting to see what
will happen to the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors religious sect
now that its leader, Malachi York, is in federal prison and the
government wants to seize its headquarters.
At Wooten's Barber Shop in Eatonton, owner Sammy Wooten said
many of his customers are hopeful the sect will fade into memory
if the federal government owns the property and York is behind
"At first it was funny when they showed up," Wooten said. "It
got to be ridiculous."
At least one member of the group said it will carry on. Kermit
B. Nowlin, 33, said Tuesday he has been a York follower for more
than 10 years and previously lived at its headquarters in rural
"Nuwaubians are not going to be wiped out by this," Nowlin
Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League said
quasi-religious cult groups like the Nuwaubians react differently
to the loss of a leader.
"Some of them continue on under new leadership, some kind of
die out and sometimes a leader may try to continue to lead from
prison," Pitcavage said. "In this case it's too soon to tell."
York was sentenced in April for his conviction on child
molestation and racketeering charges. His lawyers have filed a
motion for a new trial and a notice of intent to appeal his
Nowlin said he does not believe the Nuwaubians' leader will
remain in prison.
"I believe 100 percent that Dr. York is not guilty of the child
molestation charges or the racketeering charge against him,"
Nowlin said. "And I believe that one day he will be cleared of
York started the group in the late 1960s in Brooklyn, N.Y.,
calling it the Nubian Islamic Hebrews, according to an FBI report
on the group.
Over the years, the group moved outside the city to a suburban
property and became known at the Ansaru Allah Community. The
group's teachings have incorporated parts of Islam, Judaism and
Christianity over the years, as well as the polytheistic Egyptian
York at one time claimed to be from another world.
He moved his headquarters to Putnam County in 1993 where it has
been known as the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors and more
recently as the Yamassee Native Americans of the Creek Nation.
The Nuwaubian empire York built included the $950,000, 476-acre
tract in rural Putnam County that group members have argued is
their sovereign holy land, a $750,000 house in Athens and more
than a dozen book stores in at least five states.
Last year, federal prosecutors filed a civil lawsuit against
York to seize the two pieces of property and more than $430,000 in
cash seized in May 2002, at the time of York's arrest.
Group members are fighting forfeiture of the property, claiming
York deeded it to them. The book stores are not part of the
forfeiture action, according to Pamela Lightsey of the U.S.
Attorney's office in Macon. She declined to answer questions about
who owns the bookstores and why they were not part of the
forfeiture. Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, who investigated
the allegations against York, said some of the bookstores have
closed since York's arrest.
"They sold York's books, tapes and videos, but they were also
recruiting stations," he said. A man who answered the telephone at
Macon's Nuwaubian bookstore, All Eyes on Egypt, declined comment
for this story. A woman at the All Eyes on Egypt location in
Augusta said she would return a call later, but did not. The
telephone at a store in Columbus had been disconnected.
U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal ruled last month he will not
decide whether the government can take ownership of the group's
land until the issue of whether York will get a new trial is
Group member Anthony Evans testified at a hearing last month
that he, his wife, Patrice, and another group member, Ethel
Richardson, own the land, after York deeded it to them.
At the same hearing, Richelle York Davis testified that the
Athens house is owned by a family partnership and is not the
property of Malachi York. Prosecutor Verda Colvin said York had 99
percent ownership of the partnership.
York followers testified in a hearing last month that they plan
to continue living on the Putnam County land they call Wahanee,
where the group's church, fellowship hall and office is located
and where they have built a number of Egyptian-style monuments.
Property manager Al Woodall testified that the group, which now
calls itself Yamassee Native Americans of the Creek Nation, has
plans to improve the property if it retains ownership. He did not
go into details about work that is planned.
On Tuesday, guards at the gate turned away a reporter seeking
The two men, dressed in red shirts and black pants asked the
reporter to back out of the driveway. When asked if officials or
others could be interviewed, one of the men said, "This is not the
The guardhouse where the men were stationed is located inside a
large faux stone pillar on the left side of the main driveway into
the property. That pillar and its twin on the right side, along
with a cross piece on top are engraved with Egyptian-style
No other people were visible on the rambling property. Its main
street is paved in white crushed stone and flanked by alternating
flagpoles and monuments that lead to buildings to the rear of the
Attempts to reach officers of the group last week and on
Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Sills said the group's presence in Putnam County seems to have
diminished in recent years. But late last month, about 1,000
people attended the group's Zed Festival centered on York's
birthday. In past years, the birthday has been marked by an event
known as Founder's Day or Savior's Day.
Officials have said at one time hundreds of Nuwaubians lived
and worked in Putnam County, with perhaps several thousand
visitors for Savior's Day. About 50 people still live at the
Nuwaubian property, Sills said. Putnam County Commission Chairman
Steve Layson said the number of Nuwaubians seemed to decline even
before York's arrest.
"The people who distributed literature on the street corners
and the people who became familiar through their dealings with the
county over zoning issues, you don't see anymore," Layson said.
"Where they are now, I don't know."
Nowlin said the Nuwaubians who remain at the compound are not
representative of the majority of the group.
"The people that protest in front of the courthouse and are
filing all these lawsuits are not Dr. York's supporters," Nowlin
said. "They are actually trying to do him harm. It appears their
purpose is to make us all look ridiculous. They walked with him
for years, but they didn't hear his message."