Nuwaubians' leader will hold private New Year's celebration in Athens' downtown Classic Center
Morris News Service
December 31, 1999
By Jim Thompson
Athens, Ga. -- More than 1,000 members of a quasi-religious sect led by a man who has claimed to be from another galaxy -- and has said ships will descend from the sky in 2003 to claim a selected 144,000 people for "rebirth" -- are expected to be at the Classic Center in downtown Athens today for a private New Year's Eve observance.
The United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, which has operated compound in the Putnam County town of Eatonton since 1993 that has housed as many as 400 people at one time, has reserved part of the Classic Center for a $100-per-ticket event that Classic Center officials are describing as a private social affair.
Citing the private nature of the event, the only information Classic Center officials would provide Wednesday were the number of people expected and the fact that the event would not involve food service.
The Nuwaubians' leader, known as Malachi York and, more recently, as Chief Black Eagle -- the deed for the group's 476-acre Putnam County compound identifies him as Dwight York -- has been living in Athens since sometime last year, according to law enforcement officials and other sources. Mr. York is not listed in the Athens telephone book.
The group also operates at least two bookstores in Athens under the name Holy Tabernacle Ministries. One of the bookstores is located at 1072 Baxter St. The second is located on Gaines School Road near Lexington Road. The Nuwaubians also had a float in this year's Black Men of Athens parade. The identity and beliefs of the group have shifted periodically since Mr. York emerged in New York in 1970, in his late 20s.
One of the group's more recent names has been the Yamassee Native American Nuwaubians.
In the early days in New York, Mr. York's followers were known as Ansaar Pure Sufi, the Nubian Islaamic Hebrews, the Ansaaru Allah Community and the Ancient and Mystic Order of Malchizedek.
Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, who has closely tracked the group's activities since its arrival in his county six years ago, said he does not believe the New Year's Eve event at the Classic Center will involve any type of millennial ritual.
"I would not anticipate any sort of problem," Sheriff Sills said. "It certainly would be counterproductive to him (York)."
Sheriff Sills believes that the event will be something of an homage to Mr. York from the sect's true believers.
"I imagine this is going to be his gala event," Sheriff Sills said. According to Athens-Clarke Mayor Doc Eldridge, the Nuwaubians have held similar events at the Cobb Galleria in metropolitan Atlanta, and representatives of that venue reported no problems with the group. While Sheriff Sills estimates that only a few hundred Nuwaubians have occupied the Eatonton compound at any one time, he estimates that Nuwaubian adherents in north Georgia could number "in the thousands."
>From a law enforcement standpoint, the Nuwaubians have not been an inordinate problem in Putnam County, according to Sheriff Sills, although a number of Nuwaubians have been arrested for possession of "bootleg audio and video tapes."